More than 20 million American women and 10 million men (even those living in Hendricks County) suffer from serious eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating during some point in their lives, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. While many people with eating disorders can hide their disease from their family and friends, they can’t hide the effects on their oral health from their dentist.

Types of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are real, complex and devastating conditions that arise from a variety of physical, emotional and social issues. The different types of eating disorders include:

  • Anorexia Nervosa – Characterized by an abnormally low body weight, an extreme fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of body weight.
  • Bulimia – Characterized by fears of being overweight; involves a cycle of eating very large amounts of food in a short time period followed by behaviors to purge the food.
  • Binge Eating or Compulsive Overeating – Characterized by reoccurring episodes of eating large quantities of food with a feeling of loss of control, but does not include behaviors to purge the food.


Dental Effects of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can cause a variety of dental complications in Hendricks County residents.

  • When you don’t receive proper nutrition, your gums and other soft tissues inside your mouth may bleed easily.
  • You may experience chronic dry mouth.
  • Nutritional deficiency can cause: 1) tooth decay and gum disease from insufficient calcium; 2) sores inside your mouth from insufficient iron; 3) canker sores and bad breath from insufficient niacin; 4) red and swollen gums; and 5) red, dry and cracked lips.
  • Frequent vomiting can lead to tooth enamel loss from stomach acids repeatedly flowing over the teeth. Teeth can change in color, shape and length and can become brittle and weak to the point that they may break off easily. In extreme cases, the pulp can be exposed, leading to infection or pulp death.
  • Purging can cause redness, scratches and cuts inside the mouth, especially on the soft palate.
  • Frequent binging and purging can cause the salivary glands to swell and become painful.
  • Eating disorders can lead to degenerative arthritis within the temporomandibular joint in the jaw, which can cause pain, problems with chewing and opening or closing the mouth, and chronic headaches.


What You Should Do if You Suffer from Eating Disorders

  • Meticulously brush your teeth and floss.
  • Immediately after throwing up, rinse your mouth with a baking soda and water to neutralize the effects of stomach acids.
  • Talk to Dr. Jon Erickson at Danville Family Dentistry about your specific dental treatment needs. Contact us to schedule an appointment at our Hendricks County office. Make sure you see Dr. Erickson regularly.

Eating disorders are serious illnesses. Seek help by seeing your doctor. Your doctor will help you understand your options and find the treatment that’s right for you.