Eating disorders can be devastating, both to those who suffer from them and to their families. But many are surprised to learn that eating disorders can compromise dental health, as well as overall physical wellness. Here your pediatric dentist in Overland Park explores the oral effects of these mental illnesses.
At Smiles Dentistry for Kids, Dr. Matt treats children of all ages, including preteens and teens. He is committed to their holistic wellness and recognizes the unique challenges of today’s kids. For adolescents facing the heartbreak of an eating disorder, he can partner with their whole treatment team to ensure that their oral health does not go overlooked.
Contact Smiles Dentistry for Kids to schedule an appointment with an experienced and understanding dentist in Overland Park.
Eating Disorders: An Overview
Eating disorders are sadly all too common, affecting almost ten percent of Americans. Although they are most frequent among teens, a growing number of eating disorders have been reported among children. They are divided into three primary types:
- Anorexia nervosa: Individuals who suffer from anorexia significantly restrict their caloric intake. Symptoms can include heart damage, low blood pressure, loss of menstrual periods, osteoporosis, and organ failure, among many others.
- Bulimia nervosa: Those with bulimia eat large quantities of food and follow their binges with a cycle of purging, typically through vomiting, laxative use, over-exercise, and/or fasting. Bulimia symptoms include gastrointestinal discomfort and dysfunction, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance, which could even lead to stroke.
- Binge eating disorder: Patients with binge eating disorder eat large amounts of food in a relatively brief period, but there are no episodes of purging. Those who suffer from binge eating disorder often experience intense guilt and are frequently overweight or obese.
Eating Disorders and Dental Damage
Patients with severe anorexia are so nutrient deficient that their bones may start to thin. When the jawbone shrinks, this can eventually lead to tooth loss.
Those with binge eating disorders often consume high amounts of sugar and refined carbs, which can greatly increase the risk of tooth decay.
And while all eating disorders are serious, bulimia has perhaps the most impact on oral health. Vomit contains high levels of stomach acid so repeated episodes of induced vomiting can lead to significant enamel erosion. Therefore, these patients are prone to pronounced dental sensitivity and an increased risk for decay. Furthermore, the longer someone suffers from an eating disorder, the more severe their tooth erosion.
Can a dentist diagnose an eating disorder?
Although dentists are certainly not mental health experts, they are trained to recognize the signs of dental damage due to disordered eating. Plus, they typically see their patients more often than the standard physician. As such, they are in a unique position to diagnose eating disorders early on.
Often, when patients are questioned by a non-judgmental dentist, they are willing to share their struggles, perhaps for the first time. As a result, a knowledgeable and understanding dentist in Overland Park, like Dr. Matt, can help to prevent the serious, life-threatening effects of eating disorders.
Contact Your Pediatric Dentist in Overland Park Today
If you are seeking quality dental care for your child or teen, contact Smiles Dentistry for Kids.
You can make an appointment online or call (913) 685-9990.l