More than 10 million Americans currently are affected by serious eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. While anyone can suffer from an eating disorder, they are most common in teenagers and young adult women. In addition to having a negative impact on an individual’s health and quality of life, eating disorders also affect self-image, relationships with families and friends, and performance in school or at work. If you suffer from an eating disorder, it’s important to talk to your health care provider.
Eating disorders can also affect a person’s oral health. Without the proper nutrition, gums and other soft tissue inside the mouth may bleed easily. The glands that produce saliva may swell and individuals may experience chronic dry mouth. Throwing up frequently can affect teeth too. That’s because when strong stomach acid repeatedly flows over teeth, the tooth’s enamel can be lost to the point that the teeth change in color, shape and length. The edges of teeth become thin and break off easily. Eating hot or cold food or drink may become uncomfortable.
Eating disorders arise from a variety of physical, emotional and social issues all of which need to be addressed to help prevent and treat these disorders. Family and friends can help by setting good examples about eating and offering positive comments about healthy eating practices. While eating disorders appear to focus on body image, food and weight, they are often related to many other issues. Referral to health professionals and encouragement to seek treatment is critical as early diagnosis and intervention greatly improve the opportunities for recovery.