How eating disorders can affect your mouth
15 Jul 2021

How eating disorders can affect your mouth

Written by- Oral Health Foundation

How eating disorders can affect your mouth: and how your dental team 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.

Multiple studies have shown eating disorders can affect oral health. That’s why the Oral Health Foundation is supporting Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

In this blog post, let’s look at what the main symptoms of each condition are, how they can affect the health of your mouth, and how your dental team can help you.

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.

What is bulimia?

Bulimia nervosa is a binge eating disorder and is diagnosed based on binge-purge patterns of eating. 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 a regular basis.

People with bulimia may also experience symptoms such as tiredness, bloating and/or constipation, abdominal pain, and irregular menstrual cycles.

What is a binge eating disorder?

Binge eaters have previously been classified as food addicts. They 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.

Binge eaters are not “overindulging” on foods or simply just having large portions, these are not enjoyable experiences and often cause a lot of distress and embarrassment for sufferers.

Characteristics of a binge eating episode include eating faster than normal, eating until feeling uncomfortably full, eating large amounts of food when you don’t feel hungry, eating alone due to embarrassment at the amount being eaten, and feelings of disgust, shame, or guilt during/after the 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. Oral signs of eating disorders can include:

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

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