Eating disorder behaviors contribute to serious dental problems that cause pain and discomfort. Up to 89% of bulimic patients show signs of the tooth erosion usually associated with purging. Teeth become translucent as acid destroys the inner portion, leaving a thin layer of enamel. Some studies have shown similar prevalence rates of dental damage in patients with highly restrictive diets that accompany anorexia.
Signs and Symptoms (from the National Eating Disorders Association):
- Loss of tissue and erosive lesions on the surface of the teeth due to the effects of acid. These lesions appear as early as six months from the start of the problem.
- Changes in the color, shape, and length of teeth.
- Teeth can become brittle, translucent and weak.
- Increased sensitivity to temperature.
- In extreme cases the pulp can be exposed and cause infection, discoloration or even pulp death.
- Enlargement of the salivary glands, dry mouth, and reddened, dry, cracked lips.
- Tooth decay, which can actually be aggravated by extensive tooth brushing or rinsing following vomiting.
- Unprovoked, spontaneous pain within a particular tooth.
If you see changes in the mouth associated with an eating disorder, talk to your dentist about ways to care for the teeth until eating disorder behaviors are discontinued.