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How Eating Disorders Can Affect Your Mouth : And How Your Dentist Can Help Spot Early Signs

Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder all have negative effects on the mouth, their symptoms can range from slight to severe and dental professionals are often among the first to identify possible red flags,


What Is Anorexia?


People with anorexia nervosa limit their intake of food and drink and have a fear of gaining weight. Many people with anorexia attribute their self worth to their caloric intake and punish themselves for eating too much or eating the ''wrong types'' of foods. 


As well as restricting calorie intake some people with anorexia will try to get rid of excess calories and weight through exercise, vomiting, taking laxatives using enemas.


What Is Bulimia?


Bulimia nervosa is a binge eating disorder and is diagnosed based on binge-purge patterns of sufferers. To meet the criteria for a diagnosis of bulimia you must be binging (taking in an excessive amount of calories in one sitting) and purging (expelling food/calories through excessive exercise, taking laxatives or forcing yourself to vomit) for a prolonged period of time on regular basis.


Specific binge-purge patterns vary between sufferers, but as many people with bulimia are considered to be a healthy weight signs can often go unoticed. People with bulimia may also experience symptoms such as tiredness, bloating and /or constipation, abdominal pain and irregular menstrual cycles.


What Is Binge Eating Disorder?


Binge eaters have previously been classified as food addicts although we now have a greater understanding of the condition. Binge eaters will often take in large quantities of food and/or drink without feeling like they are in control of what they are doing, these binges can be planned ahead of time with the sufferer buying ''special'' foods to binge on, or they could be spontaneous.


Characteristics of a binge eating episode include eating faster than normal, eating until feeling uncomfortably full, eating large amounts of food when you do not feel hungry, eating alone through embarassment at the amount being eaten, and feelings of disgust, shame or guilt during/after the binge.


Unlike bulimia sufferers, those with binge eating disorder will not purge after a binge.


How Can Eating Disorders Affect The Health Of Your Mouth?


All of these eating disorders affect your health, have negative effects on sufferers bodies and should be treated as serious health conditions. 


Potential negative effects of vitamin and nutrient deficiencies can cause the body to shut down and not function properly and that will also be reflected in the mouth. Revealing oral signs of eating disorders include: 


  • Enamel erosion
  • Dry Mouth
  • Enlarged salivary glands
  • Cracked/dry lips
  • Mouth sores
  • Tooth decay
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Bruising and/or injury to the mouth


Those who purge through vomiting can also erode tooth enamel through excessive contact with stomach acid.