Adolescents who have regularly seen a pediatric dentist throughout their childhood years are more likely to keep the habit of regular dental checkups. These checkups are important in maintaining good oral health, and in some cases, can be life-saving. The first signs that your teenager may be struggling with an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia may be evident in their teeth.
The dentist will notice an unusual increase in the number of cavities their adolescent patient, especially if the patient’s history shows that the patient has been cavity-free for some time. Some other red flags may include dry mouth, bleeding gums, or cracked lips, to name a few.
When patients don’t get the proper nutrients they need from food, symptoms of malnourishment manifest physically. Our teeth need calcium, phosphate, vitamin D, folates, etc. to be strong and healthy. Over time, not eating enough can result in deficiencies that cause teeth to become weaker and more susceptible to cavities.
A behavior that is commonly associated with eating disorders is purging – getting rid of the food that has been ingested – by vomiting, or using laxatives. The stomach acid that comes from excessive vomiting will damage the enamel on the back of the front teeth, and this will be noticeable by a pediatric dentist when performing a routine checkup. If the same effects are caused from drinking colas, or sports drinks, they will show up on all the teeth, not just the front ones.
Other signs of eating disorders include chipped the enamel and unusual tooth sensitivity. A dentist will be able to determine how advanced a disorder may be by judging the extent of the damage to the teeth.
A pediatric dentist is trained to deal specifically with dental conditions particular to children and adolescents. The additional training and education that pediatric dentists go through include learning how to communicate and help manage behaviors that affect patients.
When these symptoms are accompanied by other changes in appearance and behavior, they can raise concerns about a child’s diet and eating habits. These other changes include:
- Obsession with food (calories, fat, sugar content, etc)
- Brittle nails
- Thin hair or loss of hair
- Sudden weight loss
- Trouble sleeping
- Menstrual irregularities
- Negative self-perception
- Struggles with binge eating
- Impaired immune function
According to the ANAD, at least 30 million people of all ages and genders struggle with eating disorders in the US. Eating disorders are a serious problem and need to be addressed as such. It’s important to identify them early on to prevent them from becoming life-threatening situations.
Dr. Patterson, a pediatric dentist in Aurora, connects with his patients, and their parents. He advocates for his patients’ dental and overall health. Talk to him if you have more questions about pediatric dentistry