Oral care and eating disorders

Eating disorders can have a huge impact on a person's quality of life. Eating disorders include anorexia (characterized by extreme food restriction) and bulimia (characterized by overeating followed by vomiting or using laxatives to get rid of the food to prevent weight gain). Eating disorders, in addition to being a condition that requires medical attention, can also have an impact on oral health.

How do eating disorders affect oral health?

Eating disorders can mean the body is not getting adequate nutrition needed for good health. Without all the necessary vitamins and minerals, the gums and other tissue inside of the mouth may bleed easily.

In bulimia, the frequent vomiting can affect teeth. Throwing up causes stomach acid to repeatedly wash over the teeth, causing erosion of the enamel, tooth sensitivity, thinning, and chipping.

Eating disorders can also cause bad breath, mouth sores, tender mouth, dry mouth, cracked lips, sensitivity to hot or cold food and drinks, and changes in tooth colour, shape, and length.

What can I do to maintain good oral health?

People with eating disorders should seek help from a professional to address the emotional, physical, and social problems associated with eating disorders. To help maintain good oral health, try these tips:

  • See your dentist regularly, who can help catch oral problems early. For most people, this may mean every 6 months, but for others, your dentist may have recommended that you visit more or less often. Follow the schedule your dentist suggests.
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Floss your teeth every day, too.
  • After throwing up, wash your mouth with a baking soda rinse to help neutralize the stomach acid.

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