Oral Health and Eating Disorders

OUR BODIES NEED a wide array of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in order to function effectively, all the way to the cellular level. Eating enough food and the right types of food is crucial to stay healthy, and this is a big part of what makes eating disorders such a dangerous problem. Not only is it harmful to overall health, though; it can also damage teeth and gums.
The Role of Malnutrition in Poor Overall Health
Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, are often devastating to the mental, emotional, and physical health of the people who struggle with them. They impact the entire body, including the mouth. The dental health effects aren’t always the first ones people think of when discussing eating disorders, but as dental health professionals, we want to give our patients as much information about this as possible

How Anorexia Starves the Oral Tissues
The eating disorder anorexia nervosa is characterized by extremely limited food consumption, sometimes paired with purging, compulsive exercising, or both. Anorexia harms oral health through malnutrition. Without enough nutrients, osteoporosis can develop in the jaw bones, increasing the likelihood of tooth loss. The salivary glands may not be able to produce as much saliva, leading to dry mouth, which in turn increases the risk of tooth decay. Gums are also more vulnerable to bleeding.
Bulimia Brings Stomach Acid into Contact with Teeth
Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, but it is vulnerable to erosion by acid. This is what makes bulimia (an eating disorder characterized by overeating followed by forced purging of food by vomiting or laxatives) so dangerous to oral health. Frequent exposure to the strong acid in the stomach can erode the enamel, leading to discoloration of the teeth, decay, and tooth loss.
Promoting Good Oral Health
A good oral hygiene routine is important for everyone, but particularly for anyone fighting or recovering from an eating disorder. In the case of purging by vomiting, the best way to minimize enamel erosion from acid is to wait at least thirty minutes before brushing so that saliva has a chance to neutralize the mouth’s pH and begin remineralizing the teeth.
You Don’t Have to Do This Alone
Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses, and for many who struggle with them, recovering isn’t as simple as deciding to stop and then stopping. It’s important to get the right help, which can be everything from a supportive family and friend group to the advice of licensed psychologists.
A good first step to take down the road of recovery would be to contact the National Eating Disorders Helpline. No matter what stage of recovery someone is in, they can always turn to the dentist for help keeping their teeth and gums healthy during and after this fight.
The dentist is your best ally for good oral health!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

From Dental Health to Overall Health

WHEN WE THINK of being healthy, how much are we thinking about oral health? Just because we go to our dentists for oral health concerns and physicians for overall health concerns, it doesn’t mean there’s no connection between the two.
The Mouth Is the Bridge Between Body and World
If the eyes are the window to the soul, then the mouth is definitely the gateway to the body. What we eat affects our health, as well as other mouth-related habits like smoking or nail-biting, and problems in overall health may show their first obvious symptoms in the teeth and especially the gums. It’s easier to maintain good overall health by maintaining good oral health, and vice versa.
Gum Disease and Chronic Diseases
According to the CDC, as many as half of American adults have some form of gum disease. In its early stage, gingivitis, it’s the result of plaque building up and irritating the gums, causing swelling, tenderness, and infection. Over time, gingivitis can worsen into periodontitis, which weakens the support structures around the teeth. Studies have suggested a link between gum disease and a number of chronic conditions.

Diabetes
Nearly a quarter of diabetics also have gum disease. Diabetes makes it more difficult for the body to fight off harmful bacteria, which makes it easier to develop gum disease and harder to keep it under control. Gum disease, in turn, can make it harder to control blood sugar levels and manage the diabetes.
Cancer
Researchers have found that men with gum disease are 30% more likely to develop blood cancers, 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer, and 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer. Cancer treatments themselves can have an impact on oral health as well. Chemotherapy and radiation treatment can have side effects like dry mouth, sensitive gums, sores in the mouth, and jaw and facial pain.
Heart Disease
The reasons for this are not yet clear, but heart disease and gum disease have a tendency to go hand in hand. As many as nine in every ten people with heart disease also have gum disease. One theory is that inflammation is the link between these two conditions.
Other Complications
Beyond these types of conditions, gum disease is also linked to osteoporosis, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, certain lung conditions, and even stroke. Gum disease in pregnant women is also linked to preterm births and low birth weights.
Healthy Mouth, Healthier Body
All these connections between gum disease and chronic diseases can seem scary, but gum disease is preventable when we maintain good daily habits like brushing for two full minutes twice a day and flossing daily. Just as important is scheduling regular dental appointments and keeping the dentist up-to-date on our medical histories!
Thank you to all the patients who support our practice!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Spotlight on Men’s Oral Health

WE SHOULD ALL BE taking good care of our teeth and gums, but did you know that this can mean different things for men than for women? That’s right: one of the ways men and women are different is their oral health, which is why we’re giving guys some tips for how to keep those handsome smiles clean and healthy.
Make Brushing and Flossing a Priority
One major difference between men and women’s oral health is that men have a tendency to be less diligent in taking care of their smiles than women — up to 20 percent less likely to brush twice a day, and less likely to change their toothbrushes regularly. This is such a simple problem to address: just make sure you’re taking the time every morning and evening to brush! Flossing once a day is important too.
Oral Disease Risk Factors for Men
On average, men are more likely to drink, smoke, and chew tobacco than women, which puts them at much greater risk of periodontitis (advanced gum disease), tooth loss, and oral cancer. Avoiding these harmful substances will go a long way to protecting your teeth and gums. We recommend drinking less and not smoking or chewing tobacco at all.

Men Are More at Risk of Dry Mouth
Because men are more prone to high blood pressure and heart disease than women, they are more likely to be taking medications for these conditions. A common side effect of these medications is dry mouth, which can pose serious problems for oral health. We need our saliva to wash away bacteria and food particles and keep the pH of our mouths neutral. Less saliva means a greater chance of cavities, gum disease, and halitosis.
Manly Men Go to the Dentist
Another problem that affects men more than women is that men tend to neglect scheduling regular dental exams. Even if they suspect something might be wrong, there’s a dangerous tendency to want to tough it out in case it goes away. This is not an effective or safe strategy when it comes to dental problems. We recommend twice-yearly dental exams even when you’re confident nothing is wrong. When it comes to dental health, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure!
Together, We Can Keep Those Charming Smiles Healthy!
In taking care of their teeth and gums, men should be wary of getting into a “tough guy” mindset. There’s nothing tough about not getting needed treatment for cavities or gum disease, and there’s nothing manly about skipping brushing and flossing or not scheduling regular dental appointments. Keep up with those great oral hygiene habits and don’t be a stranger to the dentist!
Helping patients is what we do!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.