People who struggle with eating disorders often have to deal with compromised oral health. Especially during these days of the pandemic, people with eating disorders are queuing up in front of the consulting rooms of physicians and dieticians. Health experts point out that the changes in routine, heightened anxiety, lack of social connections, and high use of social media are the triggers of this trauma response.
Importantly, a dentist is often the first to identify the signs of eating disorders for many patients. Therefore, dentists in Port Melbourne explain the major eating disorders and how those disorders affect an individual’s oral health.
People who struggle with anorexia are usually concerned about gaining weight and try to limit their food and drink intake. They often worry about eating of high quantity or the wrong type of food and punish themselves by significantly reducing the food intake. This leads to low body weight and reduced energy level to complete the daily tasks.
Some anorexia patients also try to remove the excess calorie through intense workouts, using enemas, vomiting, and more. In any regard, the eating disorder needs timely medical intervention. With low mental and physical health, anorexia patients have the risk of high mortality.
It is another eating disorder where the patient's binge – overeat in one sitting – and try to remove the excess calorie through exercises, forcing them to vomit, or taking laxatives. Importantly, this disorder is generally identified by a physician or dentist based on the binge pattern of the patient.
Importantly, regular binge-purging is the primary sign of the disorder for you to identify. People with bulimia often show different binge-purge patterns. Some people with an eating disorder have a healthy weight, and that makes the disease unnoticed. People with bulimia experience constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, tiredness, and irregular menstrual cycles.
Binge Eating Disorder
In general terms, these are people who are classified as food addicts. Today, we have a greater understanding of them. People with this eating disorder usually don’t care about the quantity of food they take. One of the ways to manage them is to ordering “special foods” to binge on before they grab high-calorie foods.
Importantly, the sufferers do not have an enjoyable food experience though they intake larger portions. This often causes distress and embarrassment for the people who experience the eating disorder. One of the easiest ways to identify the disorder is by observing the eating pattern of the sufferer.
People with binge eating disorders generally eat quickly than normal until they feel uncomfortably full. Other signs of the disorder include eating without feeling hungry, feelings of disgust after a binge, and eating alone to avoid embarrassment due to the amount of food. Compared to Bulimia sufferers, people with binge do not purge after eating.
The Effects Of Eating Disorders On Oral Health
The negative effects of eating disorders are visible on the general health of the sufferers. The patients should get treatments for both the eating disorder as well as the impacts of the health issue on their body.
While coming to oral health, the sufferers generally show the following symptoms:
- Enamel erosion
- Enlarged salivary glands
- Dry mouth
Sufferers who purge the excess food by vomiting may experience enamel erosion due to the frequent contact with the acids in their stomach. Lack of proper nutrition can make the gums and soft tissues of the sufferer bleed easily.
The food control attempts of the patients sometimes lead to nutritional deficiency. Especially insufficient calcium intake of the patient can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Similarly, lack of iron in the food intake can lead to the development of sores inside the patient’s mouth. Also, an insufficient intake of vitamin B3 can lead to canker sores in the mouth and bad breath.
How Do Dental Teams Help With Eating Disorders?
Dental practitioners usually identify the eating disorders of an individual through the early signs. This is mainly identified at the time of regular dental check-ups or a dental visit. If you struggle with an eating disorder, your dentist can identify it through enamel erosion or possible injuries in your mouth.
They will also check the hard and soft tissues of your mouth to see any other visible marks. Usually, people who purge by vomiting make it by putting something forcefully on the mouth to induce vomiting. And such attempts often leave visible marks or injuries in the mouth. This also includes redness and scratches, especially on the mouth’s upper surface, commonly referred to as “soft palate”.
In addition to the enamel erosion from stomach acid, the dentist can also identify dental decay due to nutrition deficiencies. Once they identify the signs of an eating disorder, the dentist will communicate their observation with you. They may suggest you a high fluoride toothpaste to address the demineralisation of teeth and erosion of enamel.
To address dry mouth issues due to insufficient nutrition or purging, the dentist may ask you to moisture the mouth with water or specific moisturising products. Keep in mind that a dry mouth can accelerate dental decay. The dentist may also suggest fluoride rinses and re-mineralising or desensitising agents for helping you restore a healthy mouth.
Importantly, even during the treatment period, the patients tend to purge. It is critical that the patients communicate these behaviours to their physician or dentist. If you purge, you should wash your mouth immediately with water or any sugar-free mouth rinse. This will help you to minimise the acidic content in your mouth to protect your teeth enamel.
A warm relationship between the patient and the dentist is vital to the treatment success. The patient should be honest with the practitioner about their behaviours.
Since a significant percentage of people with eating disorders fail to identify the issue, regular dental visits can help them get timely diagnosis and treatment. Importantly, professional help is crucial to the successful recovery from the disorder, and you shouldn’t wait to seek professional assistance if you suspect that you have an eating disorder.
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