Eating Disorders and Tooth Care 

Introduction

Eating disorders are abnormal eating compulsions.  People with eating disorders have a distorted body image.  They attempt to control their weight by controlling their food intake.  There are several types of eating disorders.  Bulimia and anorexia nervosa are two of the most common ones.  People with bulimia alternately eat food and self-induce vomiting.  People with anorexia barely eat; they essentially starve themselves.

Eating disorders are dangerous to your child’s health.  They also damage your child’s teeth.  Self-induced vomiting associated with bulimia causes harmful stomach acids to enter the mouth.  The stomach acids are strong enough to wear away the protective enamel from your child’s teeth.  This can lead to sensitive teeth, cavities, and tooth discoloration.  Overtime, your child’s back teeth can become smaller.  Your child may experience tooth loss.  This can affect your child’s bite pattern or the way that your child’s teeth come together.

Anorexia causes starvation.  Without food consumption, your child’s body does not receive the vitamins and minerals it needs.  Malnourishment can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss.

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Symptoms
You should check for changes in your child’s teeth and gums if your child has an eating disorder.  Your child’s teeth may appear discolored, decayed, or loose.  Your child’s gums may be inflamed and painful.  They may recede or pull away from your child’s teeth.  When your child brings his or her teeth together to chew, your child’s bite pattern may feel differently than it did before.  Frequent vomiting can cause the tissues inside of your child’s mouth to become dry and swollen.  Your child may experience a sore throat.

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Diagnosis
Your doctor can diagnose dental conditions related to eating disorders.  Your doctor will review your child’s medical history and dental history.  Your doctor will examine your child’s teeth, gums, and bite pattern.  X-rays will be taken to view the inside of your child’s teeth, gums, and bones.

Tell your dentist if your child has an eating disorder.  Your dentist is happy to refer you to health care professionals that can help your child.  Your dentist can become part of your child’s treatment team along with your doctor.  Additionally, preventative dental steps can be taken while your child begins treatment.

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Treatment
Your dentist can treat dental problems that occur as a result of an eating disorder.  Your dentist can apply professional fluoride treatments to your child’s teeth.  Your child may receive prescription toothpaste that contains higher levels of fluoride than regular toothpaste.

If your child has bulimia, a primary goal is to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.  Your child should rinse his or her mouth with a solution of baking soda and water after he or she vomits.  Your child should use a prescription mouth rinse that contains fluoride.  Your child should avoid brushing his or her teeth immediately after vomiting.  This only harms the teeth more.  Your dentist can prescribe a mouthguard to protect your child’s teeth from stomach acid.

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.