How do eating disorders affect our oral health?

It’s not a secret… eating disorders affect our oral health.

It is no secret that our dietary choices and how we take care of our teeth plays a huge role in the health of our mouth and entire body. It is important to develop and maintain good oral hygiene by making it a daily habit to brush your teeth twice a day, floss, and schedule regular visits with Dr. Leslie Anthony every six months. What is kept a secret is that you or someone close to you may be suffering from an eating disorder. Eating disorders can have a severe negative impact on a person’s oral health and their overall quality of life.

It is estimated that over 10 million people in America are living with an eating disorder. An eating disorder is described as an illness that is characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits and can affect people of any age or gender. You might not be aware that eating disorders can lead to extremely sensitive teeth caused by weakened enamel and bleeding gums because of poor nutrition.

The most common types of eating disorders are:

  • Anorexia Nervosa– Anorexia commonly shows up as an obsession to reach the “perfect” weight. An excessive fear of gaining weight and having a distorted perception of body image.
  • Bulimia Nervosa– Bulimia is characterized by repeatedly but discreetly binge eating and then engaging in behaviors that over compensate for the overeating such as self-induced vomiting, over using laxatives, or compulsively exercising.
  • Binge Eating– Like bulimia, binge eating is characterized by frequently eating excessive amounts of food but unlike bulimia there is no compensational behavior for the food consumed often resulting in a person being obese.

Eating disorders can cause severe pain and sensitivity to the teeth and gums, promoting sufferers to seek dental help. Dentists are often the first health care professionals to see signs and symptoms of eating disorders.

Dental Symptoms of an eating disorder

  • Enamel on the teeth is weakened and eroded from frequent exposure to strong stomach acids.
  • Gums may recede and bleed when there is a lack of minerals and nutrients needed for healthy gums.
  • Teeth can become very sensitive to hot and cold temperatures
  • Teeth can become misshaped, cracked, and translucent in color.
  • Salivary glands may become enlarged.
  • Chronic dry mouth and bad breath.


Eating disorders can show up as a result of some type of physical, emotional, and social issues that need to be addressed. A person suffering from an eating disorder should seek help from a qualified professional immediately. Feelings of shame and guilt often accompany having an eating disorder and prevent sufferers from getting the help they need and keep them from receiving regular dental care.

If you or someone you care about is suffering from an eating disorder it is important to have an open and honest relationship with a dentist you trust. Dr. Anthony has a unique and compassionate approach to helping people with eating disorders and addictions. She is an active part of The Body Balance Program team. The Body Balance Program is an eating disorder treatment program in an outpatient setting that is offered through Kalispell Regional Healthcare.

If you or someone you love is suffering from the oral complications of an eating disorder Dr. Leslie Anthony is here to help. Schedule an appointment today to find out the best ways to take care of your teeth and mouth. Let Dr. Anthony help you on the road to recovery and restoring your smile.


Call Leslie B. Anthony, DMD to schedule your appointment today

At 752-8161