Health & wellbeing

Dental health experts are raising awareness about the significant, often permanent damage that eating disorders can cause to oral health. Patients with eating disorders require specialized care to maintain dental well-being, as they are particularly susceptible to erosion damage caused by acidity in the mouth.

Eating disorders, through their various manifestations, can lead to irreversible harm to teeth.

Excessive consumption of acidic foods and drinks, reduced saliva secretion, and vomiting associated with conditions like bulimia can result in dental erosion, a chemical dissolution of the tooth surface. As the enamel wears away and the dentin is exposed, patients often experience tooth sensitivity. Lost enamel and dentin do not regenerate, leading to permanent damage.

“Dry mouth and reduced saliva production linked to eating disorders can increase the risk of tooth erosion. Additionally, it can lead to other oral issues such as mucosal lesions, yeast infections, and inflammation of the mouth corners. In severe cases, teeth may require root canal treatments or even extraction due to the damage caused by erosion and caries,” explains Marjut Sakko, a specialist dentist at HUS’s Unit for Oral Diseases.

Despite generally maintaining good oral hygiene, patients with eating disorders may exhibit excessive brushing force, leading to more common issues like gum recession and abrasion lesions. Brushing teeth immediately after vomiting can further exacerbate wear on the teeth. Instead, it is recommended to rinse the mouth with water post-vomiting and wait at least half an hour before brushing. Teeth whitening and the use of whitening toothpaste should be avoided.

The primary focus for protecting teeth is the treatment of the eating disorder itself. Healthy and regular eating habits, avoiding acidic foods and drinks, ensuring adequate saliva production, and regular oral examinations are crucial for preventing oral diseases.

Regular dental health check-ups are vital, especially for children and adolescents, in the prevention and early detection of eating disorders. HUS and the Well-being Area of Uusimaa have published a treatment pathway aimed at ensuring timely dental care for patients with eating disorders and standardizing treatment practices across patients.