Eating disorders are known to have serious effects on the overall health of those who suffer from them. But many people are unaware that eating disorders can also pose a risk to oral health. But how?
For starters, those who suffer from bulimia nervosa, also known as binge eating, consume large quantities of unhealthy foods, followed by self-induced vomiting or fasting in order to attempt to undue the damage they have done. This ends in the erosion of the protective enamel on their teeth. The result is that acid erodes the lining on one’s tooth enamel, causing tooth deterioration and other oral problems, such as gum disease.
Patients suffering from anorexia nervosa are prone to going long periods of time without eating at all or eating very little.
A lack of nutrition for the body and in turn the mouth could result in dry mouth, a condition in which the patient isn’t able to produce enough saliva to sustain the rich minerals needed to protect them from tooth rot.
"If one is lacking niacin, vitamin B3, in their diet, they could be promoting bad breath," said dentist Kelley Mingus of Bend, Oregon. "This is due to having a lack of enzymes that eliminate the bacteria that cause that rotten smell in one’s mouth. Although lacking vitamin B3 in one’s diet is rare, especially in the United States; those patients just need to consume more fish, poultry, greens or dairy products."
Since the oral and overall health implications are severe, those who suffer from an eating disorder should get professional help in order to overcome their eating issues. An eating disorder, like smoking, is an addiction that has roots in anxiety, depression or other stress-related issues. The sufferer is obsessed with their weight and food and is unable to stop their negative behaviors, despite prompts and concerns from loved ones.
What can you do if you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder?
The patient must want to change their behavior or risk falling back into their destructive eating habits. Extreme cases of anorexia can involve hospital treatment and consultation with a dietary specialist in order to correct poor eating habits. Most often, getting at the root cause is what’s best for someone suffering from an eating disorder, since it is most commonly stress related.
With the proper help and right mindset, a patient can overcome their eating disorder and adopt habits that promote a healthy mouth and body, Mingus said.