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Eating Disorders Versus Oral Health

February 9th, 2021

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WHEN WE THINK of the damage that eating disorders can do, we probably first think of the psychological toll and life-threatening malnutrition. However, eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia can also be very hard on the oral health of those who struggle with them. Healthy teeth and gums require a variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in addition to regular brushing and flossing, so not eating well or enough is a serious problem.

How Malnutrition Harms Oral Tissues

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by extremely limited food intake, which may be paired with compulsive exercising, purging, or even both. The way anorexia harms oral health is through malnutrition. The bones of the jaw can develop osteoporosis without sufficient nutrients, which increases the risk of tooth loss.

Without enough fluids, the salivary glands can’t produce enough saliva, resulting in dry mouth. Dry mouth makes both tooth decay and gum disease more likely because we need our saliva to neutralize acids and wash away food particles. Finally, without the nutrients to keep the immune system strong, the gums become more vulnerable to bleeding.

Bulimia and Acid Erosion of the Teeth

Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by first overeating, then forcibly purging food through vomiting or laxatives. This puts strong stomach acid in frequent contact with the tooth enamel. Even though enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, it is highly vulnerable to erosion from acid. It isn’t uncommon for someone struggling with bulimia to experience tooth discoloration, decay, and even tooth loss due to their disorder.

Protecting Your Oral Health

We all need good oral hygiene routines to keep our teeth and gums healthy, our breath minty fresh, and our smiles sparkling, but it’s especially important for those battling with or recovering from an eating disorder. Anyone whose teeth are frequently exposed to stomach acid can minimize erosion by rinsing with water initially and then waiting thirty minutes before brushing. It’s important to give the saliva time to neutralize leftover acid so that brushing doesn’t cause additional erosion.

Here are a few signs to watch for if you’re worried someone you love might be developing an eating disorder:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGhB4FFL1_E

You Aren’t Alone in This Fight

An eating disorder is a mental illness, and recovery is often a long road that requires help and support. That could come in the form of sympathetic family members or friends or licensed psychiatrists. Another great resource is the National Eating Disorders Helpline. And, of course, dental health professionals are always here to help patients keep their teeth and gums healthy through mental and physical health challenges they face.

We’re invested in our patients’ overall health!

Sugar Versus Our Teeth

February 1st, 2021

SUGAR IS THE GREATEST nemesis of the dental profession and anyone who wants to maintain a healthy smile. Why? Because the harmful bacteria in our mouths love to eat it, then excrete acid onto our teeth as a waste product. That leads to enamel erosion, tooth decay, and gum disease. This is why we encourage our patients to cut back on sugar intake…but it’s not always as simple as it sounds.

Sugar Goes by Many Names

When you think of sugar, you probably picture candy, soda, and desserts above all, but are you also picturing fruit juice, flavored yogurt, granola bars, and barbecue sauce? So many of the foods we eat contain significant amounts of added sugar, and it isn’t always called sugar in the list of ingredients. It’s always a good idea to check the “added sugars” line in the nutritional facts, but we recommend learning to recognize the different names for sugar as well.

How to Find Sugar on Food Labels

Obviously, anything that includes the word “sugar” is something to watch for, whether that sugar is powdered or coarse, brown or coconut, but another giveaway is the word “syrup.” Every syrup, from high-fructose corn syrup to rice syrup, is a type of sugar-based sweetener. That’s not all; evaporated cane juice, agave nectar, honey, fruit juice concentrate, and even 100% fruit juice are also sugar.

Then there are the more scientific names. Don’t be fooled by the long, difficult-to-pronounce chemistry words. An easy way to identify these sugar aliases is to look for the suffix “-ose” at the end of the words, such as in fructose, dextrose, glucose, sucrose, lactose, and maltose. These are all names for types of sugar molecules.

Is There a Healthy Amount of Sugar?

Ideally, we’d all be able to avoid sugar entirely, but with it hiding in so many of the foods we buy, that can be a very difficult goal to achieve. If it isn’t possible to cut sugar out altogether, then we recommend following the American Heart Association’s guidelines. Women should try to consume no more than 25 grams (or six teaspoons) of sugar per day, and men should try to keep it under 36 grams (nine teaspoons).

It’s also important to control when and how we consume our sugar. Whole fruit is a healthier option than fruit juice because the sugar in the fruit is trapped with water and fiber, making it harder for our bodies to absorb it. Whole fruit is also more filling than juice, so we’re less likely to overdo it. (If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between natural and processed sugars, that’s it.) Finally, it’s better for our teeth to consume our sugar only during meals.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Sweeteners for a Healthier Mouth and Body

If you simply can’t go without some delicious sweet treats, there are plenty of sugar-free sweeteners to try, such as monk fruit sweetener, stevia, xylitol, and erythritol. Working with these substitutes can be tricky when baking, but many recipes work well with applesauce, mashed bananas, dates, or figs in place of sugar.

The Dentist Is Your Teeth’s Best Ally Against Sugar

Limiting sugar intake and finding healthier substitutes are great ways to promote oral health, in addition to a good daily brushing and flossing routine, but the dentist can help too! If it’s been longer than six months since your last dental appointment, make sure to schedule one!

We have the sweetest patients!

Welcome to Our Blog

January 12th, 2021

Thank you for taking the time to visit our blog. Please check back often for weekly updates on fun and exciting events happening at our office, important and interesting information about orthodontics and the dental industry, and the latest news about our practice.

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