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Pediatrician. 1989;16(3-4):178-84.

Dental aspects of anorexia and bulimia nervosa.

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National Institute of Dental Research, Bethesda, Md.


Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are both psychosocial pathological eating disorders. An intense preoccupation with food, weight and a distorted body image coupled with a morbid fear of becoming obese are common elements in both syndromes. Self-starvation with extreme weight loss is associated with anorexia nervosa. Bulimia nervosa is characterized by unrestrained eating sprees followed by purging, fasting or vomiting. Approximately 50% of anorexia nervosa patients also practice bulimia. The impact of eating disorders on the oral soft and hard tissues depends upon the diet as well as the duration and frequency of binge-purge behavior. Erosion of the teeth due to frequent regurgitation of highly acidic stomach contents is a common finding. Dental caries development is less predictable and appears to be diet- and oral hygiene-dependent. Painless enlargement of the parotid salivary glands is a common sequela of chronic vomiting but the pathophysiological cause has not been firmly established. The dehydration of the oral soft tissues due to salivary gland impairment in addition to dietary deficiencies and poor oral hygiene can adversely impact the health of the periodontal tissues and oral mucosa. Initial dental care is focused on discouraging behavior that is destructive to the oral tissues. Improved oral hygiene, the use of gastric acid-neutralizing antacid rinses and the daily application of topical fluorides can be useful in reducing enamel erosion. Extensive restorative oral rehabilitation should be postponed until the underlying psychiatric components of the disorder are stabilized.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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