By Leah Graves, RDN, LDN, CEDS-S, FAED

Eating disorder behaviors can significantly impact oral health. Changes in the mouth are oftentimes the first physical signs of an eating disorder. The nutritional deficiencies and oral changes that emerge with eating disorder behaviors can have severe consequences on one’s dental health and in turn overall health and wellbeing.1 

Early detection of eating disorders provides an opportunity to address any dental complications from eating disorder behavior quickly. Damage to the teeth and mouth can be tempered by arming yourself with the right information and receiving appropriate guidance from your oral health professional.1

Dental Effects of Eating Disorders1

  • Bad breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Swelling of the salivary glands 
  • Dental decay
  • Gum disease
  • Erosion of tooth enamel 
  • Tooth wear
  • Tooth fracture
  • Mouth ulcers/sores
  • Irritation and inflammation of mouth structures and tissues: lips, gums, tongue

Treatment of the Oral Health Consequences of Eating Disorders1

  • Partner with your dental and orthodontic professional to monitor and support your oral health. Attend your dental examinations as recommended. Dental practices uphold client confidentiality and are “safe” to fully disclose eating disorders struggles and progress with recovery.  
  • Engage in the recommended oral health care related to tooth brushing and flossing.
  • If you struggle with purging, be honest with your dental provider and treatment team about these behaviors. After purging, immediately rinse your mouth with water to lessen the impact of the high acid content to oral surfaces. Delay brushing your teeth for an hour to avoid scrubbing stomach acids deeper into the tooth enamel.
  • Stay hydrated. If your mouth remains dry, consult your medical and dental providers to discuss other ways to moisturize the oral tissues. Your dentist may prescribe fluoride, desensitizing, or re-mineralizing agents to address dental concerns. 


[1] Azzam, M., & Casa-Levine, C. (2023, April 20). Oral effects of eating disorders. Dimensions of Dental Hygiene.