“What About Eating Disorders?”

“I am scared! Am I going to loose my teeth?”

I looked at Jenny, as I have with many similar pretty young ladies, and I really felt for her.

Among the susceptible figure-conscious young female group, especially in Los Angeles, New York, London and Paris, eating disorders are quite common, and teeth erosion is a side effect of the acidic oral environment resulting from either purging or a poor diet. Eating disorders, including bulimia (binge eating followed by self-induced vomiting), anorexia and poor dieting habits carry side effects which are detrimental to your bodily and mental well being – they can also rot your teeth. Studies have shown that up to 2.1% of males and 7.3% of females purge (self-induced vomiting) at least once a week, and the numbers are even higher for adolescents.

Tooth surface loss from erosion caused by chemicals such as dietary, gastric or environmental acids typically wear away tooth enamel, which leads to sensitive teethcaries or gum disease. If untreated, these effects can exacerbate leading to teeth grinding and gastric reflux disease. Soft tissue lesions, malnutrition,  a suppressed immune system, low self-esteem, an addictive personality (smoking, drinking or drugs), peptic ulcers and esophagitis are common among people who suffer from bulimia and anorexia. Oral damage from such disorders can include a severe breakdown of the teeth or their supporting structures which can affect the facial muscular system, negatively affecting your daily quality of life; the effort to restore a damaged mouth can become extremely challenging and costly.

Treatment of the problem, besides education and being supportive to the person suffering from the disorder, involves precise dental management; controlling the oral environment, drinking water or healthier juice instead of diet soda, eating healthier (as opposed to binge eating and purging) are all part of the solution. Getting prescription strength fluoride from your dentist to harden and desensitize your teeth and maintaining your oral hygiene by brushing and flossing at least twice a day is also crucial. if you regurgitate or vomit, rinse your mouth out right away. Adding baking soda to your brushing can also neutralize the acidic environment.

Regarding dental treatment, additive composite bonding to cover exposed dentin or to replace lost tooth surface is a possibility. Getting a custom-fitted night guard to prevent further loss of tooth structure from bruxism and maybe veneers or crowns to restore your mouth to ideal health are other possibilities. Of course, a professional assessment would be the first step of the process. The earlier you start treating the problem the better. A healthy mouth is essential for a healthy life.

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