Dental Treatment for Eating Disorders

The harmful habits and nutritional deficiencies that often accompany an eating disorder can have severe consequences to one’s dental health.  Changes in our mouth are oftentimes the first physical signs of an eating disorder. This blog article will discuss the most common eating disorders, Anorexia nervosa and Bulimia nervosa, as well as the dental effects of these disorders and their dental treatment options..

The following information is a brief summary of the Feeding and Eating Disorders described in the American Psychiatric Association’s Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published in 2013.

Anorexia Nervosa

  • Inadequate food intake leading to a weight that is clearly too low.
  • Intense fear of weight gain, obsession with weight and persistent behavior to
  • prevent weight gain.
  • Self-esteem overly related to body image.
  • Inability to appreciate the severity of the situation.
  • Binge-Eating/Purging Type involves binge eating and/or purging behaviors during the last three months

Bulimia Nervosa

  • Frequent episodes of consuming very large amount of food followed by behaviors
  • to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting.
  • A feeling of being out of control during the binge-eating episodes.
  • Self-esteem overly related to body image

Dental Effects of Eating Disorders

Food restriction often leads to nutritional deficiency. Nutrients that promote oralhealth include calcium, iron and B vitamins. Insufficient calcium promotes tooth decay and gum disease; even if an anorexia patient does consume enough calcium, they also need enough vitamin D to help the body absorb it. Insufficient iron can foster the development of sores inside the mouth. Insufficient amounts of vitamin B3 (also known as niacin) can contribute to bad breath and the development of canker sores.

Frequent vomiting leads to strong stomach acid repeatedly flowing over the teeth. The tooth’s outer covering (enamel) can be lost and teeth can change in color, shape and length, becoming brittle, translucent and weak. These are often seen on the palatal surfaces of the upper teeth.

A frequent binge-and-purge cycle can cause an enlargement of the salivary glands. Enlarged glands can be painful and are often visible to others, which can lead to emotional distress.

Dental Treatment for Patients With Eating Disorders

With the intervention of eating disorder specialists and our professional dental team, individuals can be helped to prevent further damage to their teeth and to have damaged and worn teeth replaced. It is essential that the patient is physically able to consume a proper diet. A comprehensive dental exam with a long-term restorative plan is necessary to help meet this goal. Predictable treatment procedures for patients with Bulimia Nervosa are dental implants. Dental implants do not corrode against acidic particles and can be predictably used to replace worn down or fractured teeth.

It is very important that psychotherapy or psychological counseling, coupled with careful attention to medical and nutritional needs, treat the patient with the eating disorder.  Our team of dental specialists would be happy to evaluate your mouth and discuss your dental needs at PDG.