August 19, 2015
As dentists, we deal with a variety of issues–and sometimes it’s not just about the teeth. In fact, throughout the span of their careers, most dentists will face a patient who either has a history of, or is currently dealing with, an eating disorder. Sometimes we’re the first healthcare professionals to notice the condition, so we have to be prepared to approach the discussion sensitively. It’s a difficult conversation to have, but sometimes it can mean a life saved–or at least altered in a significant way.
And after the discussion, there’s the next hurdle: treatment. Eating disorders like bulimia, self-induced vomiting to lose or maintain weight, can cause the patient to have severely worn tooth enamel and decayed and sensitive teeth. This is due to teeth’s constant exposure to the stomach acids that invade the mouth during purging. Eventually, the loss of enamel causes big changes in the shape, color and size of teeth–just a few damaging side effects of this difficult disorder.
Dental treatment in patients with eating disorders is most successful when the disorder is in recovery. Teeth can still be treated if the condition is acute, but the opportunity for erosion of new fixtures is high until the disorder is maintained. Once it is, the patient can begin to consider their options in cosmetic dentistry.
This reminds me of one patient I had, who we’ll call Stacy–of course we can’t use her real name. Stacy was in her early 30s when she came into my office with an interest in restoring her severely worn upper teeth. Picture your teeth as they are now, but about half as long–that’s how Stacy’s front teeth looked. A glance at her medical history confirmed my suspicions: Stacy was in recovery from bulimia.
Aside from the psychological trauma she had endured, Stacy’s disordered eating had left her with several oral problems, including a problem with her TMJ, or jaw muscle–a common issue associated with bulimia. She told us she hadn’t purged in over a year, and she was excited about the prospect of restoring her teeth. That was the beginning of a long, and ultimately successful, journey to get Stacy’s smile back.
Stacy’s treatment included several appointments, dozens of x-rays, charts, jaw muscle treatments, crowns, and eventually shining, beautiful porcelain veneers. Now, Stacy comes back every six months for recare appointments–our chance to make sure everything is staying strong and healthy, and that there are no signs of relapse. So far, everything is looking great in Stacy’s mouth–even, perhaps, better than before. She’s never been happier to smile.
With over 30 years of experience as a Ponoma General Dentist, I’ve tackled a lot of difficult cases–but Stacy’s is one that really sticks out to me. Good treatment is crucial for patients like her. A great looking smile can drastically improve the self-confidence of patients recovering from an eating disorder. In fact, it may be the last–and most important–step on the road to a long, healthy and happy life.
No comments yet.
RSS feed for comments on this post.
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.