Eating Disorders & Oral Health

Vomiting.Millions of people in the United States, particularly teenage girls and young women, suffer from health-threatening eating disorders, and dentists are often the first to spot the signs. Why? The repeated, self-induced vomiting that characterizes bulimia nervosa has a pronounced effect on teeth. Anorexia nervosa (self-starvation) can also have some noticeable effects on oral health.

More than 90% of those with bulimia experience tooth erosion. This is caused by acid from the stomach, which can dissolve the enamel when it comes in contact with teeth during vomiting. Teeth that have lost enamel can appear worn, chip easily, and become sensitive to hot and/or cold. Of course, acid erosion can also affect people who drink a lot of soda, sports drinks and energy drinks — even the diet varieties. But acid erosion in bulimics has a particular pattern: It is evident on the upper front teeth, particularly on the tongue side and biting edges. The bottom teeth, on the other hand, tend to be protected by the tongue when a person throws up.

Once enamel is lost, it can't grow back. But the damage can be repaired with various restorative techniques including veneers and/or crowns. The best treatment will be determined by how extensive the damage is, which in turn depends on how frequently the person has engaged in binge-purge behavior.

To protect teeth in the short term, it is important not to brush them immediately after vomiting as this can scrape off more of the softened enamel. It is better to rinse with water to which a little baking soda has been added, which neutralizes the acid. Even a plain water rinse is helpful. Sometimes a sodium fluoride mouthrinse is recommended to strengthen the enamel and reduce its loss.

Erosion is not the only sign of an eating disorder that a dentist or hygienist may notice. In severe cases the salivary glands can become enlarged, causing the sides of the face under the ears to look puffy. Also, the throat, back of the tongue and roof of the mouth can appear reddened or otherwise traumatized from the use of fingers or other objects to induce gagging. Soft tissues of the mouth can also be damaged by acid.

Only about 20% of anorexics experience tooth erosion, but there are other signs that may become apparent in the dental office. Nutrition and hygiene suffer in general, which in turn can mean more tooth decay and gum disease. There is also considerable overlap between anorexia and bulimia.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder or believe that a loved one is, please let your healthcare professionals know. We will make sure you get the help you need for healthy teeth and a healthy life. You can also visit the National Eating Disorders Association for some helpful information.

Related Articles

Bulimia Anorexia - Dear Doctor Magazine

Bulimia, Anorexia & Oral Health Eating disorders, particularly bulimia nervosa, can leave telltale signs on the teeth that dentists and hygienists are trained to spot. The frequency with which a person engages in binge-purge behavior will determine how seriously the teeth are affected... Read Article

Contact Us

Send Us an Email

Testimonials

What Our Clients Say About Us

  • "Dr. Katz is attentive to his patients' needs, always careful to ensure the patient's comfort...It's a friendly office with impeccable service. They will take good care of you!
    Over the years, Dr. Katz and his team have provided me with an extremely high level of care and personal sensitivity. He has earned my trust."
    Jim Velleco - Marblehead, MA
  • "I have had a lot of dental work done during my life--orthodontia, fillings, crowns, implants, root canals, a bridge--and Dr. Katz is by far the best dentist I've ever seen. In addition to being a superior craftsman with a lot of experience, Dr. Katz is attentive to his patients' needs, always careful to ensure the patient's comfort. His staff, several of whom have been working with him for decades, is likewise excellent. It's a friendly office with impeccable service. They will take good care of you!"
    Sandra Doherty
  • "Awesome Doctor and team - have been going to Dr. Katz's practice for over 20 years and the professionalism, care and attention are superb. They are warm, welcoming, caring and a pleasure to go to. Highly recommend them - with a warm smile!!!
    The professionalism, care and attention are superb. They are warm, welcoming, caring and a pleasure to go to."
    Paul Romano
  • "I travel from Woburn to Salem for my dental needs because there is no other dentist that I trust more than Dr. Katz. I am impressed with his professionalism and drive to stay on top of the best dental techniques. He and his team treat my wife and me like family. I highly recommend Dr. Katz!
    There is no other dentist that I trust more than Dr. Katz. I am impressed with his professionalism and drive to stay on top of the best dental techniques. He and his team treat my wife and me like family."
    Rob Dealy
  • "It’s not “Cheers” and they don’t serve beer, but it is a place “where everybody knows your name.” They know your family, too. And you know theirs. After 25 years here, for me it’s not just about having clean teeth. It’s about catching up with old friends, sharing what’s going on and caring about each other."
    Eugenia Fountain - Salem, ma
  • "They are thorough, careful and up to date on new techniques. One never feels like a "number" because there is very little staff turnover...We recommend them without hesitation.
    If you're looking for top-notch customer service, a welcoming staff, and valuable take-home knowledge, make an appointment with Dr. Katz. My mouth and I have had nothing but positive experiences in his care."
    Mike Briddon - Swampscott, MA
  • "Dr. Katz makes me feel like I'm the most important patient he has. He is calm, relaxed, informative, patient and gentle...I have heard nothing but positive feedback from the people I've sent
    Thank you for over 20 years of compassionate and technically excellent dental care."
    Christine Kowal - Swampscott, MA
  • "We come from Wakefield to see Dr. Katz. He has been our family dentist for the last 10 years and my husbands dentist since he was a kid. Today my very anxious 7 year old had to have a tooth pulled and Dr. Katz did a wonderful job at making him comfortable. My son got through the experience with flying colors and no tantrums. We would highly recommend him as a dentist!"
    Nicole Jennings
  • "My husband and I are long term patients of this practice because of the trust it has earned with us over time. They are thorough, careful and up to date on new techniques. One never feels like a "number" because there is very little staff turnover .....clearly a plus. We recommend them without hesitation!"
    Michelle Genereux

Our Location

Find us on the map

Hours of Operation

Our Regular Schedule

Monday:

8:00 am-6:00 pm

Tuesday:

12:00 pm-8:00 pm

Wednesday:

8:00 am-5:00 pm

Thursday:

8:00 am-4:00 pm

Friday:

Closed

Saturday:

Closed

Sunday:

Closed