How Anorexia Affects Your Smile: The Impact on Oral Health

young woman in a robe and hair towel checking her teeth in the mirror

Eating disorders can negatively affect every part of your body, including your mouth. Poor oral health can negatively impact not only your overall health but also your quality of life. That is why it is important to understand how anorexia may be impacting your teeth.

Malnutrition and The Impact of Anorexia on Teeth

Nutrition affects your body from the inside out. Anorexia often causes vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can affect the functioning of every system of the body. These deficiencies can have a negative impact on oral health. Let’s look at some of the common dental issues associated with anorexia.

Common Dental Problems and Anorexia

Tooth erosion. One of the most common dental issues associated with anorexia is dental erosion. Self-induced vomiting and reflux can damage the enamel of the teeth. However, dental erosion has also been seen in people with anorexia who do not purge. This can cause discomfort when eating hot or cold foods and make it more difficult to eat.1

Loss of teeth. The teeth can also become brittle and are at higher risk of chipping. If the tooth’s pulp becomes exposed, the tooth may become infected, or the pulp may die, leading to tooth loss.1

Dental Cavities. Those suffering from eating disorders are also at higher risk for dental cavities. This is often related to nutrient deficiencies or dry mouth. Eating disorders can also affect the function of salivary glands. This can increase the risk of dry mouth and tooth decay.2

Bad breath. When nutrient deficiencies and salivary gland dysfunction cause dry mouth, it can also make your breath smell bad.1

Mouth sores. A niacin deficiency (or vitamin B3) can lead to swollen gums and canker sores. Likewise, insufficient intake of iron can contribute to mouth sores.1

Arthritis of the jaw. When most people think of arthritis in your hands or knees, arthritis can also affect the temporomandibular joint, which is where your lower jaw connects to the rest of your head. Arthritis of this joint has been associated with eating disorders and may lead to jaw pain, difficulty opening or closing your mouth, and chronic headaches.1

Dental issues are not only uncomfortable but can also be painful. The discomfort from oral problems can make it even harder for someone suffering from an eating disorder to eat enough food. Plus, it often limits the variety of foods that they are able to eat, which can hinder recovery and lead to further nutrient deficiencies. Changes in the appearance of teeth can also have a negative impact on self-esteem. This is one reason that it is important to seek immediate treatment for your eating disorder.

Treatment For Anorexia and Oral Health Protection

Unfortunately, damage to the teeth is often irreversible, although many dental complications can be treated. If you are suffering from an eating disorder, it is important to be proactive to optimize your oral health. Some practical ways to help protect your teeth during recovery include:1

  • Maintain regular dental screenings.
  • Be honest with your dentist about your eating disorder.
  • Brush and floss your teeth regularly.
  • Avoid brushing your teeth within one hour after vomiting to avoid further erosion. Instead, rinse your mouth with water.

The only way to stop the progression of dental problems is to seek treatment for your eating disorder. Magnolia Creek offers evidence-based, compassionate care to help you jumpstart your recovery. To get started, contact us at 205-678-4373.



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