National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is happening now and people around the world are encouraged to Come as You Are! This year's theme is Come as You Are: Hindsight is 20/20 during February 24th to March 1st, which is the time where individuals are reflecting on their journeys toward accepting themselves and others.
The purpose of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (#NEDAwareness) is to shed light on eating disorders through education and provide resources that could save lives. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, approximately 30 million people in the United States are affected by an eating disorder, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder. In addition, about 70 million across the world are impacted by eating disorders. It is important to know that eating disorders can affect anyone, including people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and backgrounds. Overtime, eating disorders can place a tremendous toll on both a person's physical and mental wellbeing.
Individuals who are affected by eating disorders often experience a variety of symptoms, ranging from anxiety, emotional distress, depression, problems with development and growth, and medical problems. However, not all eating disorders are experienced in the same way by individuals.
Many are aware that diet can impact not just your physical health, but also your oral health. Signs of an eating disorder are often seen first within the mouth. Lack of nutrients and harmful habits can permanently damage teeth. Take a look at some of the consequences of eating disorders for your oral cavity:
- Improper nutrition can impact the amount of protective saliva present within the mouth that may cause dry mouth. Dry mouth significantly increases your risk for developing tooth decay along with it's uncomfortable sensation. In addition, the gums and soft tissue may bleed easier due to lack of essential nutrients.
- Nutritional deficiencies can increase the risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease, because teeth rely on vitamins and minerals including calcium, iron and B vitamins. A lack of proper amounts of iron can lead to the development of oral sores. Also, a lack of sufficient amounts of vitamin B3 (niacin) can contribute to bad breath, dry mouth, and the development of canker sores.
- Vomit can be extremely damaging to teeth, because the stomach acid causes the tooth enamel, the outermost layer of the tooth, to wear down. This not only changes the shape and size of teeth, but also changes the color. The layer underneath tooth enamel, dentin, which has a yellow hue can become exposed and increase sensitivity and make your tooth become brittle. Erosive lesions within the mouth may also appear. In more severe cases, the pulp, the innermost layer of the tooth, may become exposed and result in pulp death.
- Degenerative arthritis within the temporomandibular joint in the jaw has been found to be associated with eating disorders, which can cause severe pain, chronic headaches, and trouble chewing or opening/closing the mouth.
- Frequent binge-and-purging can cause the salivary glands to become inflamed and enlarged, causing pain within the oral cavity.
Eating disorders if not treated can result in death. Treatment can include a combination of psychotherapy, nutrition education, and medical monitoring, but can vary based on the type of eating disorder.
If you have any questions about eating disorders, talk with your primary care physician or dentist. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) also has screening tools available online. Now is the perfect time to help increase awareness and support those impacted by eating disorders.
Feel free to contact Drs. Ali & Ali and the caring team at Wellesley Dental Group if you have any thoughts or concerns; they will be happy to answer your questions! Contact us today at 781-237-9071 or firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment.
Your little ones and teens are welcome to visit our pediatric dentist, Dr. Derek, and Dr. Emad is happy to help with your TMJ and orthodontic needs. For wisdom teeth extractions or any other oral surgery needs, Dr. Stephens would love to help, and our gum-specialist Dr. Singh can help with your gum-related concerns.