Eating Disorders: The Impact on Dental Health

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An eating disorder may seem to be a sensitive topic and one that is not discussed openly among parents. But eating disorders happen among kids and teenagers. Eating disorders can cause dangerous eating habits that can lead to serious health problems in children.

How do you identify if a child has an eating disorder? A child’s eating disorder can manifest in any of the following conditions:

  • Anorexia: A child has this condition when he or she refuses to eat adequately, with the unfounded fear of getting obese or fat.
  • Bulimia: A child may have this condition if he or she overeats and then expels the food soon after by vomiting or taking in laxatives to avoid getting fat.
  • Binge Eating: This condition manifests when a child overeats or binges on food quickly, or a child eats a lot in a short amount of time.

Studies show that while these conditions generally manifest during the teenage years, it can also begin in childhood. Female kids are more at risk of suffering from anorexia and bulimia, while binge eating now tends to affect male kids.

These conditions among kids and teens can have adverse effects on their overall health. Eating disorders can bring about nutritional deficiencies, weight problems, and social developmental issues. Kids experiencing any of these disorders may not have the proper daily food intake. Either they eat very little to none, or they eat fast in a given short amount of time. They are not feeding their bodies with balanced, healthy meals most of the time.

Consequently, one’s diet and food intake play a significant role in dental development and keeping the teeth and gum strong and healthy. Bulimia can cause acid build-up in a child’s mouth. The harmful acids then cause cavities and eventual tooth decay when not treated promptly. The same applies for binge eating.

A distressed child’s normal daily activities get impacted. His or her dental hygiene and routine get disrupted and sacrificed. This habit can lead to further dental problems along the way. Overall, having an eating disorder can significantly and permanently affect a child’s dental health and overall wellbeing.

We do not know yet the cause of kids’ eating disorders. Still, many medical professionals think that it is due to specific social, biological, and psychological factors affecting the youth in general today. Unfortunately, some children handle these stressful and demanding factors in a harmful way resulting in improper eating. Often, eating disorders cause other concerns like depression, anxiety, and physical illnesses.

We pray that it’s not, but if in any case you suspect a child dear to you suffers from an eating disorder, take action right away. Consult with the doctor. The child will need special attention and treatment. The child needs help in achieving the right eating behaviors and back to a healthy weight. Support is also required in changing his or her conceptions about body and food as it is essential for growth and development.

Sources:

Eating Disorders, The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Eating_disorders/

A To Z: Eating Disorders, Nemours KidsHealth https://kidshealth.org/Nemours/en/parents/az-eating-disorder.html

Eating Disorders in Children and Teens, WebMD https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/eating-disorders/features/eating-disorders-children-teens#1

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