Anorexia & Bulimia are largely considered silent killers because many suffer in silence, as 50% of people with eating disorders also suffer from depression.
Sadly, that number is estimated to be around 10 million Americans suffer from some form of eating disorder! However, it is not just Psychologists and Medical Doctors who are on the front lines of intervention, but Dentists also have a front seat in screening patients and determining whether a problem exists. So, what does the Dentist see, and what are the moral obligations of those in the health care industry to work together to help arrest this disorder in it’s early stages?
Long before a person may become excessively thin, a person struggling with Anorexia or Bulimia will have been engaging in the self – harming habits of binge eating and purging.
In many cases, the purging is done by vomiting which erodes tooth enamel and promotes rapid tooth decay. Over time, the resulting oral health issues frequently causes the individual to seek medical and/or dental attention ~ and this is where the medical professionals need to educate themselves on knowing what the telltale signs are, and on how to help their patients successfully address and overcome the disorder.
Because the disorder is largely triggered by psychological and self-esteem issues, there is no one-solution approach to addressing the issue. Health Care providers must work together for the health of their patients. In addition to the psychological concern, is the physical toll that the disorder takes on the overall health; leaving the person deficient in many of the vitamins, minerals, and fluids necessary for optimal health.
Signs of Anorexia or Bulimia that a Dentist may see are:
swollen salivary glands; worn, misshapen, translucent teeth; irritated, dry or cracked lips; lesions on the soft oral tissues; sensitive teeth; chronic dry mouth; and/or the Dentist may notice broken blood vessels in the patient’s eyes. These are some of the common signs of Anorexia & Bulimia that a dentist, hygienist, or other health care professionals, may identify. Early detection is paramount in helping the patient overcome the disorder before extensive, and sometimes irreversible, damage is done.
It is a tragedy that statistically only 1 in 10 men and women who suffer from these disorders, receive treatment! With the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder, we all need to do our best to encourage and assist those in this life-or-death struggle to seek professional help – and Dentists and other healthcare providers are on the front lines with the ability to make a difference.