How Anorexia Affects the Teeth 

Anorexia nervosa may be accompanied by episodes of purging, which is called purging type anorexia. This version of the disorder affects the teeth, as the acid in vomit can wear down enamel. 

But there are certain techniques that can be adopted to help reduce the damage purging can cause.

Bulimia's affect on teeth

The primary way anorexia can damage your teeth if you have an eating disorder is if you experience purging behavior. Purging can be done in several ways, but self-induced vomiting is the most harmful for teeth

Diet plays a role in how much damage this inflicts on teeth, as that can alter the acidity of the stomach contents. But repeatedly purging through self-induced vomiting can remove the protective layers from your teeth, weakening your tooth enamel. Over time, this can cause tooth erosion. 

Anorexia also causes malnutrition, which may lead to osteoporosis. [1] Osteoporosis is the weakening of the bones, which can sometimes diminish the jaw to such a degree that teeth become loose. In some cases, osteoporosis can lead to cracked teeth or tooth loss.

While some studies have linked eating disorders and tooth erosion, more research on the specific relationship between the two is needed. [2] 

Picture of mouth

Signs of Tooth Damage Caused by Anorexia

The initial sign that your eating disorder may be affecting your teeth is typically a change in teeth sensitivity. As protective layers of enamel wear away, teeth become more sensitive to hot and cold. You may even experience pain if the tooth is exposed to certain foods, such as those high in sugar content.

Dentists are also trained to identify the oral signs of an eating disorder. They might see things like: [3] 

  • Tooth erosion
  • Cracks in enamel
  • Mouth sores
  • Enlarged salivary glands

If a dentist discovers signs of an eating disorder, they will typically try to help by recommending treatment. They can also offer advice on how to protect and care for teeth while the patient deals with their condition.

How to Take Care of Your Teeth

If you struggle with purging type anorexia, it may be helpful to further consult with your dentist. These experts can help monitor the overall health of your teeth and offer targeted guidance based on the issues you’re facing. 

If you vomit for any reason, you should also wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth. This is because the acid brought up by the action can cause further damage if you brush right away. Instead, swish some water in your mouth and spit it out to clean up.

When it is time to brush, using a neutral paste such as baking soda is recommended to help protect damaged teeth. 

Still, the most important way to help both your dental health and overall mental and physical health is to seek treatment for your condition. Asking for help isn’t easy, but it’s a fantastic first step toward recovery. 

Finding Treatment for Anorexia

Everyone experiences anorexia nervosa differently, and the ideal treatment for you will depend on your specific needs. A good place to start is by talking to a mental health expert who specializes in treating eating disorders

Many patients can see good results with standard outpatient therapy, but others may benefit from the greater level of supervision and scheduling allowed by a residential program. People who have struggled with self-harm, substance use disorder, or who have especially severe symptoms as a result of their eating disorder may need a residential program at first to achieve the best results. 

But regardless of where you start on your journey, it’s important to remember that help—and recovery—is always possible. 


  1. Rizzoli R, Bonjour JP. (1999). Malnutrition and osteoporosis. Z Gerontol Geriatrl; 32 Suppl 1:I31-7. 
  2. Hermont AP, Oliveira PA, Martins CC, Paiva SM, Pordeus IA, Auad SM. (2014). Tooth erosion and eating disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One; 9(11):e111123. 
  3. How Do Eating Disorders Affect Your Mouth? (n.d.). Colgate. Accessed August 24, 2022. 

Last Update | 12 - 1 - 2022

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