The Effects Eating Disorders Have On Oral Health

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Bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa are two major eating disorders which affect over 10 million Americans. Individuals who have these eating disorders can develop poor health, which includes poor oral health.

Tooth Erosion

89% of bulimic patients show signs of tooth erosion according to the National Eating Disorder Association. This is because the stomach acids from purging coat teeth and eat away at the enamel. Anorexics are also more subject to tooth erosion than those who do not have an eating disorder because they tend to frequently drink acidic beverages like fruit drinks or diet soda. Tooth erosion can cause decay, change to tooth shape, tooth sensitivity, or a change to tooth color.

Swollen Salivary Glands

Frequent vomiting or the misuse of laxatives and diuretics can cause the salivary glands in the mouth to swell. This reduces saliva production, which can result in bad breath and cracked lips. Additionally, a dry mouth can increase the chances of tooth decay because saliva helps protect teeth by neutralizing acids and bringing in minerals which rebuild tooth enamel.


The body needs enough nutrients to support all parts of it, including the gums and other oral tissues. When the body doesn’t get enough nutrients because of an eating disorder, the tissues in the mouth are more vulnerable and bleed easily. These tissues may also develop lesions, which can be painful and bleed as well.