Suspect Your Child Has an Eating Disorder? How Oral Health Can be an Indicator
Eating disorders are estimated to affect 9% of the Australian population, and they can have a damaging effect on much of a sufferer's life. And, while sufferers of eating disorder may do everything they can to hide their problem, the effects of eating disorders can often be seen on their teeth. In fact, a 2014 study found that signs of eating disorders were easily discovered by dentists and concluded that dentists played a big role in the early detection of eating disorders.
If you have a child that you suspect has an eating disorder like bulimia or anorexia nervosa, here are some telltale signs that you may be able to pick up from your child's oral health. It's possible that your child is resistant to seeing a dentist for fear of detection, but having an idea of what to look for is a good starting point in your effort to help your child make a recovery if indeed there is a problem.
Your child may complain of a dry mouth. This is common with eating disorders and can be brought on by excessive vomiting or poor nutrition. A dry mouth, or xerostamia, can often lead to tooth decay, so explain this calmly to your child. Explain that the mouth needs its saliva as it helps prevent harmful germs, germs that lead to cavities and other oral infections.
Change in the appearance of the teeth
The frequent vomiting associated with bulimia can create havoc on the teeth due to the contact with strong stomach acid. You may notice that your child's teeth are changing in colour or shape due to the loss of enamel, or that they are looking more brittle or translucent than they did previously. You may even see that bits of the teeth are breaking off in the corners.
Sores inside the mouth
If you child complains of sores inside the mouth, again, this could be a sign that your suspicions are correct. It's possible that these sores are caused by a lack of iron in your child's diet.
These are all common signs of eating disorders, but your dentist will be able to find more signs that are not visible without a good examination. Therefore, it's worth trying to convince your child to visit the dentist with you. A checkup with the dentist may be enough to scare your child into getting the help he or she needs if an eating disorder is, indeed, the problem.