For years, the focus of attention surrounding eating disorders was on young women and teenagers. As Women’s Health Magazine reveals in its latest issue, this is no longer the case. Eating disorders, including bulimia, anorexia nervosa, and binge eating, damage your teeth along with the rest of the body. In her article, Ovidio Bermudez, M.D., mentions the dental consequences of eating disorders which include tooth decay. As an eating disorder treatment specialist in the Downtown Boston area, we have noticed the same trend as well. At Dental Health and Wellness Boston, Dr. Jill B. Smith, DMD and her team of compassionate professionals can help you through this challenging disorder, and emerge on the other side – smile intact.
The effects of these disorders ravage the whole body.
Eating disorders leaped into the national conscience in the 1970s and ’80s, when the number of diagnosed cases exploded. The patients were adolescent girls, many of whom became anorexic or bulimic as a means of controlling their bodies—and, by extension, their lives—as they made their way through puberty. So many girls fell victim that eating disorders were branded a teenage disease. (And experts continue to see a troubling number of cases among teen girls, says Ovidio Bermudez, M.D., board member of the National Eating Disorders Association.)
Yet lately doctors have noticed a disturbing spike among a different group: women in their late twenties, thirties, and forties. At the Renfrew Center’s 11 treatment locations, the number of patients over age 35 has skyrocketed 42 percent in the past decade. Likewise, a couple of years ago at the Eating Recovery Center in Denver, an estimated 10 percent of patients were over age 25; today, a whopping 46 percent are over 30. And when it opened in 2003, the University of North Carolina’s Eating Disorders Program was designed for adolescents—now half of its patients are over 30 years old.
Just like their younger counterparts, adult eating disorders deliver a mind-body punch that kills more people than any other mental illness. Patients of all ages can suffer impaired brain function, infertility, dental decay, or even kidney failure or cardiac arrest. But while the teen and adult diseases share physical symptoms, and both can be tied to deep psychological roots, their catalysts are quite different, says psychotherapist Jessica LeRoy, of the Center for the Psychology of Women in Los Angeles. “As women get older and their lives evolve, so do their stressors and triggers,” she says. These can nudge the door open for an eating disorder. But research on the adult-onset versions is lacking—and without sufficient tools and awareness, women like Susan are being misdiagnosed.
Dr. Jill B. Smith, DMD is a Boston Dentist who is an active member of MEDA and NEDA and works closely with physicians, mental health, and nutrition counselors to treat these disorders in a whole body way. Visit the Dental Health and Wellness Boston website to learn more about the effects of eating disorders on your teeth (decay, acid erosion, enamel thinning etc.) and view our Eating Disorder support services, and request your free consultation and start your road to recovery.