Ever wonder how eating disorder symptoms affect your teeth, mouth, and gums? Not sure how to treat it? Well, I have FABULOUS blog interview today—it’s with my amazing San Diego dentist, Dr. R. Andres Garcia, DDS, at Carmel Heights Dentistry, located in Carmel Valley. At my last check up, I was curious as to how he treats patients with eating disorders, and he graciously agreed to let me interview him for my blog! In this post, Dr. Garcia identifies teeth/mouth/gum eating disorder symptoms and details the requisite dental treatment. Some of these symptoms may sound scary, and they definitely are serious. I want to emphasize, however, that these symptoms ARE treatable, and that’s why it’s important to see a dentist right away so you can come up with a treatment plan that’s right for you. I know many of you may feel ashamed of how the eating disorder is affecting your teeth. I totally get it. At the same time, seeking dental care is a wonderful way to further your eating disorder recovery and practice self-care. Plus, a good dentist knows how to treat it, and I think Dr. Garcia is one of the best in San Diego.
How long have you been a dentist in San Diego?
I have been a dentist for 20 years, and I’ve been in in San Diego the last 15 years. I went to UCLA Dental School.
What kind of teeth/gum/mouth issues come up with patients with eating disorders?
The two most common eating disorders that we see in my office are bulimia and anorexia. With anorexia, given the lack of proper nutrition, we see more bleeding gums and bone loss. This bone loss can lead to eventual tooth loss and degeneration of the temporal mandibular joint (TMJ).
With bulimia, we see more localized symptoms. The constant contact of oral tissue to stomach acid can lead to ulcers and a red sore throat. The acid dissolves the teeth from inside of the mouth. The teeth will look fine and healthy when the patient smiles, but on the tongue side, the enamel will be thin or completely gone. Severe tooth structure loss can lead to the loss of the entire tooth. Also, long-term contact to stomach acid increases the chances of developing throat cancer later in life.
How do you treat these issues?
For the patients with anorexia, aggressive periodontal therapy (deep cleaning) is often necessary to protect remaining bone structure supporting the teeth. There is a need for more frequent cleanings and nutritional support. Some teeth may need to be removed because of advanced bone loss.
For patients with bulimia, protecting and replacing the remaining tooth structure is the goal. Fluoride treatments in office and at home can help strengthen the thin weaker enamel. Teeth with severe tooth structure loss might require a full coverage restoration (cap/crown) to protect and restore the remaining tooth structure. In both anorexia and bulimia, implants or dentures might be necessary to replacing missing/”hopeless” teeth.
What can people with eating disorders expect in a first appointment with you?
At the first appointment, I conduct a thorough exam to determine the overall health of the teeth, bone, and gums. A comprehensive treatment plan is developed to get the patient as close to their optimal oral health as possible and address any concerns that they have. This plan can be multi-phased and require a few years to complete.
What would you like people to know about how eating disorders affects the teeth/gums/mouth?
It is important to realize that just because your teeth do not hurt does not mean there is not a problem. Bone loss is usually painless, same with erosion to tooth structure from stomach acid. There is often little to no pain until it is too late, and the teeth cannot be saved.
Share one fun fact about you that many people don’t know.
I have been doing martial arts most of my life and I have three black belts.
Dr. Garcia, thank you! so much for letting us know how eating disorders can affect your teeth, mouth, and gums!
In order to contact Dr. Garcia, you can check out his website and make an appointment through there, or you can call his office at 858.755.7805.
Hey everyone, I really appreciate you reading my blog! Have a wonderful day. :)
If you are struggling to find eating disorder treatment in San Diego, give me a call for your free 15-minute phone consultation at (858) 699-3754, and I will help you get where you need to be!