How Eating Disorders Wreak Havoc on Teeth and Gums
More than 10 million Americans struggle with an eating disorder. Most sufferers are between the ages of 12 and 25 and the symptoms are alarming. Take a look at these common disorders and their telltale signs:
Anorexia. Teens with anorexia see themselves as too fat even when they’re very underweight. They hide or discard food, and count calories or fat grams obsessively.
Bulimia. People with bulimia binge eat then purge what they’ve eaten either by vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics, fasting, using enemas, or exercising excessively.
Binge eating. Individuals with this disorder eat a large amount of food in a short period of time. They tend to hide or discard containers and wrappers. The behavior is usually brought on by stress.
Eating disorders take a serious toll on person’s health. They raise the risk of heart failure, cause malnutrition, block the intestines from normal function, trigger seizures, lower the thyroid and sex hormones, lead to kidney failure, and more.
They also prompt a multitude of dental problems. According to the National Eating
Disorders Association, here’s what eating disorders do to your teeth and gums:
- Gums may bleed easily and salivary glands may become inflamed, causing chronic dry mouth.
- Lack of nutrients promote tooth decay, gum disease, mouth sores, bad breath, and dry mouth.
- Purging washes tooth enamel with stomach acid, causing teeth to become weak and brittle, and change color.
- The temporomandibular joint is the joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull. Eating disorders raise the risk of degenerative arthritis in the joint, causing jaw pain, chronic headaches, problems chewing, and difficulties opening and closing the mouth.
- Binging and purging can cause salivary glands to enlarge and become painful.
Eating disorders are nothing to smile about. In some cases they can be life threatening. Research shows anorexia has the highest death rate of any psychiatric disorder.
If you suspect your teen struggles with an eating disorder, seek help from your pediatrician or family doctor right away. Discuss treatment options and ask for referrals to healthcare providers such as dietitians, nutritionists, therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Seek out a support group and talk to your child’s school counselor.
Lastly, be there for your teen. Let her know she will get through this—together.