How Eating Disorders in Children and Teens Affect Dental Health

How Eating Disorders in Children and Teens Affect Dental Health
Posted on 08/24/2021

August BlogNutrition and dental health have an inseparable connection to each other. So, it makes sense that an eating disorder — which greatly affects nutrition — can negatively affect dental health. Many children can suffer from eating disorders, especially as they enter adolescence. Here is a look at how eating disorders can negatively affect the dental health of children.

How Binge Eating Can Negatively Affect Dental Health in Children

Binge eating typically means that a child will go through a period of compulsive eating or they may have an eating addiction. Binge eating can exist as its own disorder, but can also play a major role in other eating disorders.

When children and adolescents binge eat, there's a high chance they're bingeing on foods high in carbohydrates, sugar, and fat. Their teeth will suffer greatly, even if they practice good dental hygiene. This unhealthy and frequent intake of foods that lack nutritional value will also likely lead to a host of other health issues. How Bulimia Nervosa Can Negatively Affect Dental Health in Children Children suffering from bulimia or a bulimia-like disorder will binge eat then purge what they've eaten. Both the binge eating and the purging can lead to poor dental health. Some of the dental problems associated with this eating disorder can create a lifetime of issues. The binge eating part of bulimia comes with all the dental health dangers associated with binge eating alone. Because bulimia also involves purging or forced throwing up, however, there is also more subtle damage done. When someone forces themselves to throw up, they also wash the back of their teeth with stomach acid.

Since people with bulimia purge frequently, their teeth will have to contend with a constant deluge of that acid. In a short time, the teeth of a child will start to show acid-related damage. Some of the dental issues associated with purging can include:

  • Erosion of tooth enamel
  • An increase in the number of cavities
  • Bleeding gums
  • Cracked, broken, and failing teeth
When combined with the negative effects of binge eating, the number of potential dental health issues will only grow.

 

How Anorexia Nervosa Can Negatively Affect Dental Health in Children

Kids who have anorexia will eat very little and drastically limit what they do eat. Anorexia can lead to poor health and even death due to the lack of nutrition.

Anorexia can sometimes come with a purging element where someone will force themselves to throw up or take laxatives, diuretics, or enemas. Excessive exercising or dieting can also be a sign of anorexia.

Anorexia can lead to a lack of proper nutrition necessary to cultivate healthy teeth and gums. Eating very little can mean not receiving enough calcium, B vitamins, iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, and various other vitamins and minerals that promote oral health.

Insufficient nutrients can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, canker sores, gingivitis, and various other conditions. Anorexia can also lead to an extremely dry mouth, which also fosters many oral ailments.

How Other Eating Disorders Can Negatively Affect Dental Health in Children

When there's a problem with eating, there's also a problem with dental health. Some of the other named eating disorders that can affect young children and adolescents include:

  • Pica
  • Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)
  • Rumination disorder

Also, there is a category of eating disorders known as other specified feeding or eating disorders (OSFED). OSFED means the child may have a severe eating disorder, but it doesn't fully conform to the symptoms or behaviors of other named eating disorders.

So, it's possible a child won't show the exact symptoms associated with a specific disorder even though they have some form of an eating disorder. As children are still in the process of developing, these disorders can severely affect their growth and create severe dental and orofacial issues.

How Dentists Can Help Children and Adolescents With Eating Disorders

Because eating disorders adversely affect oral health, a children's dentist can often see the effects before anyone else does. Seeing the health signs of potential eating disorders can often become the only way someone would know there's a problem. In some cases, an adolescent child may find it more comfortable to speak about what's going on with their dentist.

An experienced children's dentist will also have techniques and treatments for dealing with some of the behaviors of eating disorders and the associated negative oral health effects. Seeing a children's dentist works against eating disorders in several ways:

  • Prevention
  • Early detection
  • Damage mitigation
  • As part of an overall treatment regimen

For these reasons and more, make sure you bring your children to a qualified children's dentist for routine checkups and to address any concerns you might have. At Dentistry for Children & Adolescents, we specialize in children's dentistry. Contact us right now to set up a dental appointment for your child.

 

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