Eating Disorder Awareness Week takes place from 26 February to 4 March this year. It aims to help people understand these conditions to better support those suffering. This is something we at BPI Dental are passionate about. The dental team are often among the first professionals to see people who are in the grips of eating disorders due to the affects seen on the teeth. As such, we are keen to help people get the help they need.
Types of eating disorders
There are many different types of eating disorders and not all cause people to lose weight.
- Anorexia – people significantly restrict their energy intake and often do lots of exercise, leading to dangerous weight loss.
- Bulimia – people eat large amounts of food in one go (binging) and compensate by vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics, fasting or exercising excessively (purging).
- ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) – someone restricts their diet by eating smaller portions or avoiding particular food or groups completely.
- BED (Binge Eating Disorder) – where someone will binge on large quantities of food in a short time frame. They may find it difficult to stop even if they consciously want to. Unlike bulimia, BED does not regularly involve purging.
- Emotional Overeating – sees people turn to food as their only way of coping with negative feelings.
- OSFED (Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder) – the name given to those people who don’t demonstrate all behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms of anorexia, bulimia or BED.
Why are eating disorders dangerous?
All eating disorders are serious mental health conditions. They cause suffers to develop unhealthy relationships with food, which can have severe health consequences.
In terms of anorexia, bulimia and ARFID, people often have a distorted image of themselves. They think they are larger than they really are. Any eating therefore leads to intense feelings of shame, guilt and anxiety. Severe weight loss can also cause physical problems, including reduced muscle and bone strength. You may have seen the video online of young anorexic twins from Russia – one of whom couldn’t even hold her head up she had become so weak. With regards to dental health, malnutrition can cause the gums to bleed easily and the salivary glands to swell, leading to dry mouth. Frequent vomiting means the teeth are regularly subjected to stomach acid. This can change the colour, shape and length of the teeth as the enamel (outer protective tooth layer) is eroded away. Tooth sensitivity and chipping are common side effects.
Also relevant to BED or Emotional Overeating, purging can lead to scratches and cuts inside the mouth, which are rarely caused by healthy daily habits.
Treatment for any eating disorder usually involves various forms of therapy and support. It is designed to help an individual change the way they think about their body and food. Some suffers can access outpatient services, while others need day patient or inpatient care.
For those who are overcoming or have overcome an eating disorder, the dental damage caused by eating disorders can be treated by a routine BPI Dental dentist. We offer an array of procedures to restore the shape, colour and length of the teeth, giving people the confidence to smile once again.
More than 1.6 million people are thought to be struggling with an eating disorder in the UK right now. With the combined support of their friends, family and healthcare professionals, they have the best chance of recovery.
If you, or someone you know, have been affected by an eating disorder and you would like to know more about the conditions or the support available, please visit www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk