Eating Disorders Can Ruin Your Oral Health

July 17, 2012

Approximately ten million Americans are currently affected by a serious eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. While most common in teen and young adult women, eating disorders can affect anybody. Eating disorders can drastically reduce your quality of life by negatively impacting your self-image, your social life, your oral health, and your physical wellbeing. Usually, eating disorders are marked by secrecy (secret binge eating, secret purging, etc.). However, you cannot hide an eating disorder from your dentist. Dr. Brad Greenfield explains how an eating disorder can affect your oral health.

How Anorexia Affects Your Oral Health

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by an extreme fear of gaining weight or becoming fat. Someone with anorexia will literally starve themselves in an effort to reach their “ideal” weight. Whether they are thin or even dangerously underweight, they still consider themselves fat and go to extremes to become or remain “thin.” By depriving themselves of food, they not only hurt their bodies, they’re also depriving their teeth of essential nutrients needed to remain healthy and securely rooted in their mouths. For instance, one of tooth enamel’s main minerals is calcium. Your body does not produce this mineral. We must ingest calcium in the foods and beverages that we consume. If your blood calcium levels drop, your body pulls calcium from your bones and teeth to take up the slack. Without adequate amounts of essential nutrients, your teeth become weak and fall out, paving the way for gum disease, which can lead to more serious health concerns, including heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.

How Bulimia Affects Your Oral Health

Bulimia is a condition that is also characterized by a deep-seated fear of gaining weight. Rather than starving themselves, however, bulimics regularly indulge in hidden binge-eating (periods of overeating), and then attempt to purge themselves by immediately throwing up or misusing laxatives and enemas. The practices of a bulimic constantly bring stomach acids into contact with your teeth. When the acidity level of plaque drops below 5.5, it begins to attack your teeth (the pH level of stomach acid is 2). These acid attacks weaken your enamel, rob your teeth of enamel-strengthening minerals such as calcium, and lead to tooth decay and gum disease, if left untreated.

If you suffer from an eating disorder and wish to seek help, speak with Dr. Greenfield about resources for assistance with eating disorders. To learn more, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Greenfield, call Lake Orion Family Dentistry in Lake Orion, Michigan, at (248) 693-6213. We welcome patients from Lake Orion, Oxford, Rochester Hills, Clarkston, and the surrounding communities.

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