Patients who have eating disorders are not aware of the tremendous impact that they can have on their oral health. Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia can affect teeth in many ways. Anorexia is the result of low caloric intake that reduces an individual’s electrolyte level. Reduction in electrolytes can cause dry mouth that can increase the decay rate on all of their teeth. Saliva is important because it lubricates the mouth, moves food along, and helps in the first stage of digestion. Saliva is also important to move food past the oral cavity and cleanse teeth. With less saliva, patients can have a lot of food adherence to their teeth, causing more decay. Patients who suffer from anorexia sometimes consume hard candy to reduce food intake while fulfilling cravings. The frequent intake of hard candy also increases the decay rate of teeth. These patients tend to have a lot of cavities due to these factors.
Another common eating disorder that patients suffer from is bulimia. Bulimic patients tend to eat food then purge/throw up their food to reduce caloric intake. Similar to anorexia, these patients tend to have dry mouth and teeth decay. Along with an increase in decay rate due to dry mouth in these patients, the purging of food results in stomach acid eroding on the patient’s enamel. Tooth erosion is commonly seen on the backside of their upper front teeth and along the back of the upper back teeth. Erosion of patients’ enamel increases the risk of decay between teeth due to the lack of enamel protecting the teeth leaving only the softer part of the tooth exposed.
Patients with eating disorders can benefit from the help of dentists who are well versed in treating patients with eating disorders. Dental treatment for patients who suffer from eating disorders is essential in preventing early tooth loss and extensive dental treatment.