Eating Disorders and Oral Health

February 28th, 2017




By Leah Kinney, RDH, MS

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) recognizes this week as National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.  More than 10 million Americans currently are affected by serious eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. Read more about how eating disorders affect our oral health.

 

Our mouths are connected to our bodies.

Basic concept, right? Maybe it’s not so obvious. At some point throughout history, we began thinking of our mouth as its own island, completely separate from the rest of body – which of course isn’t true.

Many medical conditions and diseases have oral manifestations, and changes in the teeth and mouth are often the first physical sign of an eating disorder. An untreated eating disorder can cause damage to the teeth and mouth. Early detection and intervention of eating disorders may ensure a more successful recovery for individuals affected.

Dental Effects of Eating Disorders

  • Gums that are red, swollen, glossy-looking or bleed easily
  • Swollen salivary glands
  • Chronic dry mouth
  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Bad breath
  • Canker sores
  • Dull, brittle, translucent or week enamel
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Sharp tooth edges
  • TMJ pain
  • Redness, scratches or cuts in the mouth (especially to the soft palate)

Due to the damaging effects of eating disorders on teeth, meticulous home care, regular visits to the dentist and open communication with health care providers are essential.

To find help for you or someone you love suffering from an eating disorder, please reference this list of eating disorder treatment centers in Minnesota.

Leah Kinney is a dental hygienist and the Director of Clinical Business Development at Delta Dental of Minnesota. Leah works to educate and empower Minnesotans to take control of their oral hygiene through proper home care and regular check-ups with their dentist. Leah received her dental hygiene and undergraduate degrees from Argosy University in Eagan, MN and also holds a master’s degree in legal studies and healthcare delivery systems from Kaplan University.