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Eating Disorders

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Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder that harms your overall health and is particularly destructive to teeth. It involves secret repeated binge eating followed by purging—self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives, fasting, diuretics or diet pills. The digestive system contains strong acids that break down food. When vomiting is used to purge food from the body, these acids attack tooth enamel. Repeated vomiting can severely erode tooth enamel and over time, teeth will become worn and translucent. Your mouth, throat and salivary glands may become swollen and tender and bad breath may result.

Anorexia Nervosa is another eating disorder that is characterized by an intense fear of weight gain, the desire to be thinner, and an inability to maintain a minimally normal weight for height and age. It’s self-induced starvation.

Each of these disorders robs the body of adequate minerals, vitamins, proteins and other nutrients needed for good health causing potential injury to teeth, muscles and major organs.

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The frequent vomiting and nutritional deficiencies often associated with eating disorders can severely affect oral health. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, studies find up to 89 percent of bulimic patients have signs of tooth erosion, due to the effects of powerful stomach acid.

Over time, this loss of tooth enamel can be considerable, and the teeth change in color, shape and length. They can also become brittle, translucent and sensitive to temperature. The salivary glands may swell, causing the jaw to widen and appear squarish. Lips may become reddened, dry and cracked, and the patient may also experience chronic dry mouth.

Photos courtesy of Craig Mabrito, D.D.S.

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