Of the numerous physical symptoms and medical complications associated with eating disorders, it is quite likely that a dental team member, whether a dentist, dental hygienist or oral health educator, could be the first health professional to notice the existence of an eating disorder.
There are many practices associated with eating disorders that have serious implications for oral health, which include: constant glasses of fizzy drinks; self-induced vomiting: vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Complications for the teeth by the type of eating disorder
The lack of calcium and vitamin D are known to be factors which contribute to the onset of osteoporosis in people living with anorexia nervosa.
Osteoporosis is a condition whereby bones become very fragile and weak, including the jaw bone. The consequence of this is the likelihood of tooth loss.
The compensatory action of self-induced vomiting practised by bulimia sufferers causes erosion of the tooth enamel.
If the condition i allowed to persist for a long period of time, teeth eventually become worn and translucent.
The obsession with eating only 'healthy foods', could result in the development of osteoporosis and the body could lack vital nutrients.
It is possible that this could see the onslaught of illnesses and conditions akin to those suffered by people living with anorexia.
Characterised by the compulsive chewing, licking and eating of non-nutritive substances, many of which can be erosive, highly abrasive and even toxic.
The teeth are put at risk of becoming chipped, cracked and discoloured.
Other consequences include xerostomia (dry mouth), glossitis (soreness, redness of the tongue) and dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing).
Some typical non-nutritive substances are illustrated below.