My husband and I were on our annual date night, when I realised that a small piece of a back tooth had broken off. We were only eating bruschetta! At the beginning of the month my teeth were checked over, and neither the dentist nor the hygienist noticed a new problem, but my back teeth are ‘few and far between’ as a result of anorexia. Bits of tooth breaking off used to be relatively frequent, and I even had one tooth snap clean down the middle.
Apparently eating disorders are bad news for your teeth. I would imagine that people naturally assume, as I did, that bulimia is more damaging to teeth, as repeated vomiting exposes the teeth to acid erosion. However, anorexia, with or without vomiting, can be damaging to your teeth too
Repeated vomiting causes acid erosion to the backs of the teeth and around the gum line. Damage can also be caused to the front of the teeth, however, when a lot of acidic drinks are consumed. I used to drink lots and lots of Diet Coke to stave off hunger. Diet Coke and similar drinks are one of the key causes of acid erosion.
The molars do not escape damage either. There is often not enough saliva present in the mouth, and it is often in bad shape due to malnourishment, so your mouth becomes acidic. The edges of teeth which jut out will be worn down into wells which spread and grow, thus, molars will end up losing their shape and height.
In extreme cases of anorexia, gums can recede and expose the roots of the teeth, which then become vulnerable to acid and irritated by the brushing of your teeth.
Obviously, the longer anorexia lasts, the more the teeth become damaged and vulnerable to decay. There are some things you can do, however, to minimise damage and improve outcomes:
- Rinse the mouth with water after vomiting, fizzy drinks, and acidic food, and wait at least 20 minutes before brushing your teeth.
- Use non abrasive paste, a flexible toothbrush, and light pressure. (Some electric toothbrushes ‘cut out’ when the pressure on teeth is too great)
- Chew sugar free gum from time to time to stimulate saliva
- Visit your dentist regularly – there are some treatments that will limit damage to your teeth, and restorative treatments to preserve the heathy part of the teeth