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Eating Disorders & Your Oral Health

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Eating disorders are characterized by severe disturbances in eating behavior. The practice of an eating disorder can be viewed as a survival mechanism. Just as an alcoholic uses alcohol to cope, a person with an eating disorder can use binging, purging or restricting food to deal with their problems. Some of the underlying issues that are associated with eating disorders include low self-esteem, depression, feelings of loss of control, feelings of worthlessness, identity concerns, family communication problems and an inability to cope with emotions. An eating disorder may be an expression of something the individual has found no other way of expressing.

Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder that involves repeated binge eating followed by purging. Purging takes the form of self-induced vomiting, or the use of laxatives, diet pills or diuretics. This is not only harmful to one's overall health, but also is particularly destructive to the teeth. When vomiting is employed to purge food from the body, the strong digestive system acids coat the teeth and attack tooth enamel. Repeated vomiting leads to the continued exposure of the teeth to these acids. This severely erodes tooth enamel. As a result the teeth become worn and abraded, overly sensitive, thinner and weaker. The throat, mouth, and salivary glands may become swollen and tender and bad breath (halitosis) may result.

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by the intense desire to be thinner, and the fear of gaining weight. It involves a severe aversion to eating; a self-induced starvation. Individuals are unable to maintain minimally normal weight for their height and age.

Both of these disorders rob the body of adequate minerals, vitamins, proteins, and nutrients required for proper health, leading to potential injury of the teeth, muscles and major organs.

If you have any questions regarding eating disorders and your oral health, Dr. Mahlin would be happy to discuss them with you.

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