Eating Disorders and Dental ExamsEating Disorders and Dental Exams

Did you know that an eating disorder can be diagnosed from the dental chair? According to the Institute of Dental Research, 28% of bulimia cases are first diagnosed during a visit to the dentist. Our mouths reveal a tremendous amount of information about our overall health. Dentists may be among the first professionals to notice something that is indicative of a more serious issue.

Signs of Bulimia

In an open letter posted on, dentist Brian McKay lists some of the telltale signs of bulimia from a dentist’s perspective:

  • Enamel erosion
  • Gum pain
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Inflamed esophagus
  • Enlarged parotid glands
  • Palatal hemorrhages

McKay explains that in addition to remaining aware of these physical signs, the initial interview is of utmost importance when gathering information about a patient’s general health. Sometimes the patient will admit to struggling with an eating disorder, and other times the dentist can reach out in a gentle, nonjudgmental way to try to assist the patient in finding support.

Dentists Have Unique Insight

Dentists are in a unique position to make an early discovery of an eating disorder, but they are also among the least-trained medical professionals when it comes to assessing for an eating disorder. The National Eating Disorders Association has information for dentists and hygienists, including a script that can be used when talking to clients about eating disorders.



ED Referral:

National Eating Disorders Association: