An estimated 10 million or more Americans have an eating disorder. While eating disorders can deplete the body of minerals, vitamins, proteins and other nutrients, they can also take a terrible toll on one’s oral health. Without proper nutrition, the gums and other soft tissue of the mouth can bleed easily. The glands that create saliva may swell, contributing to chronic dry mouth. When strong stomach acid repeatedly flows over teeth from throwing up, the enamel of the edges of teeth become thin and break easily. Hot or cold food or beverages may become uncomfortable.
While eating disorders seem to focus on body image, food and weight, they are often related to many other issues. Referral to health professionals and encouragement to seek treatment is critical as early diagnosis and intervention greatly improve the opportunities for recovery. During this time, it is imperative for these individuals to maintain meticulous oral health care related to brushing and flossing. Also, it is advised to NOT brush immediately after throwing up – but rinse with baking soda dissolved in warm water, which will help neutralize the effects of the stomach acid.
Protecting teeth and gums are imperative for any individual. However, because people with eating disorders are already at high risk for gum problems and tooth decay and breakage, we advise more frequent check-ups than every six months. You may be scheduled for exam and hygiene visits every 3 or 4 months so we can provide you with the support you need during your treatment and recovery.