Eating disorders and their effect on oral health: identifying and understanding manifestations
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Anorexia and bulimia nervosa are the two leading types of eating disorders that are impacted by a person’s lack of self-esteem and negative view of their body. With advancements in technology, our society is more connected than ever by the internet and social media resulting in both positive and negative results. This means that individuals are exposed to social stigma regularly and this is a contributing factor to the increasing rate of eating disorders. Like all diseases, eating disorders have similarities and differences but both have one major point in common - they affect the body systematically. These include factors such as altering the pigment of the skin, or lowering body fat percentage to dangerous levels because of malnutrition. These manifestations occur when the disease has progressed and irreversible damage has occurred. However, there are early signs of these diseases commonly seen in the mouth that aid in early detection, diagnosis, and treatment. These signs include xerostomia, enamel erosion, and caries development. While on their own, these issues can be the symptoms of other diseases besides eating disorders but together they are key in diagnosis. This leads to the problem that many dentists face today, and that is the inability or lack of knowledge to diagnose patients with eating disorders. Therefore, dentists and oral health providers, must learn the signs of eating disorders as well as be trained in the proper steps to approach this situation. In doing so, many people with eating disorders will receive the much needed help early on to prevent subsequent permanent damage and ensure their livelihood.