Approximately 8 million Americans suffer from eating disorders and the illnesses are putting their dental hygiene at risk. Erroneously, the psychological illness has been categorized as a woman's disease. Nothing could be further from the truth as 1 million men have been diagnosed with the condition and anyone regardless of gender, age or ethnicity can suffer from eating disorders (South Carolina Department of Mental Health).
The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia and once a person is diagnosed with the affliction, treatment is both costly and difficult. Each disorder will negatively impact a person's health differently and no matter the differences, both contribute to the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 5 percent to 10 percent of anorexics die within a 10-year period after developing the condition and approximately 20 percent of anorexia nervosa suffers will die after 20-years.
Prior to that unfortunate end, the conditions will wreak havoc to one's general well being. Both illnesses have been linked to malnutrition, heart issues, depression, suicidal tendencies and dental problems. Each eating disorder has its own unique characteristics and while some anorexics may follow bulimic behaviors, the two disease are very different and each has its own pitfalls.
Anorexia nervosa is a mental illness categorized by an individual being obsessed with their weight and responds by implementing a strategy of self-starvation and deprivation. Anorexics shun food, restrict what they eat, may vomit up any consumed food and may workout for hours in order to burn off any calories ingested. All the activity will contribute to significant weight loss, unhealthy body weight and a slew of medical woes.
Ultimately the starvation will deprive individuals of the proper nutrition needed for good health. Without the proper nutrients, osteoporosis (a medical condition causing brittle bones as determined by excessive protein and mineral content loss in bones) is more than likely. Osteoporosis sufferers can expect the connectivity between their jawbone and teeth to become weakened, increasing the odds of tooth loss and the problems associated with missing teeth.
Bulimia nervosa is a eating disorder revolving around the behaviors of "binging" (over consumption) and "purging" (vomiting). Bulimics have been known to quickly eat large quantities of food such as gallons of ice cream, entire sheet cakes and buckets of chicken only to run to the bathroom in order to regurgitate everything eaten. The behavior can result in feelings of guilt and shame and can destroy an otherwise pearly white smile.
Bile is a digestive fluid produced by most vertebrates and the acidic compound is essential to fully breakdown food. When the fluid stays in the intestine, oral health is not an issue. However, vomiting forces bile over teeth and the acid will erode tooth enamel, promote tooth decay and cause tooth discoloration.
Both eating disorders can lead to dental problems including:
Treating eating disorders begins with a proper diagnosis of the condition and a skilled dentist may be the first line of defense for detecting the problem. Since dentistry can only treat the symptoms it is imperative that individuals suffering from eating disorders seek professional medical attention and psychological evaluation stat. NationalEatingDisorders.com (1-800-931-2237) is a great resource for finding eating disorder treatment options and 1-800-DENTIST can connect those in need with a skilled dentist who can address and fix dental problems.