Eating disorder is a mental condition affecting many teenagers and young adults, and there is an increase in the number of patients who are diagnosed over the years, which is a disturbing and worrying trend. Eating disorders are associated with a wide range of adverse psychological, physical, and social consequences. It is not only a complicated mental condition but affects one’s overall dental health too. Do you know that a dentist can detect a patient with eating disorders just by a clinical examination and the condition of their teeth? The first few signs of a person who suffers from eating disorder can be determined by the changes in their mouth. They may exhibit the following symptoms (some but not all, depending on the severity of the condition):
- Mild to extreme sensitivity towards cold and hot food and drinks
- Sudden pain on a certain tooth for no known cause
- Dryness of the mouth and lips
- Enlarged salivary glands
- Redness on palate and throat
Extensive regurgitation (vomiting) will cause the tooth enamel to be damaged (eroded) due to constant exposure to gastric acids. The obvious telltale signs that one has eating disorder would be short, brittle and translucent teeth. They also frequently complain of teeth sensitivity and are more prone to developing cavities due to extensive teeth brushing and rinsing of the mouth following episodes of vomiting. Some of these symptoms appear as early as 6 months before the patient starts to complain of discomfort or pain. A visit to the dentist may help in early detection if the person is suffering from eating disorder. There are various treatment options to address the dental issues that arise from suffering from an eating disorder. Even though the damage is irreversible, one can still prevent further deterioration of the overall condition of the teeth by encouraging the patient to visit the dental at least twice a year. However, besides a dentist, it is pertinent that the patient seeks medical assistance as soon as possible. The treatment may involve a team consisting of psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians, dietitians, medical social workers, family therapists, nurses, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists. Being a care-giver to someone with eating disorders is stressful. However, early detection can be help to ensure that their loved ones receive the appropriate medical care and before the condition worsens.