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Dentists can identify eating disorders

Dentists can play a key role in the detection of health conditions including anorexia nervosa, bulimia and Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD), according to research from King’s College London.

teeth and eating disordersThe data, published in the British Dental Journal, found that many of the medical conditions that result in the erosion of tooth enamel, known as erosive tooth wear (ETW), can have serious and even possibly fatal consequences if left undiagnosed or untreated.

Researchers recommend that dentists should be aware of the very specific oral signs of eating disorders, which include the erosion of the insides of the upper front teeth facing towards the roof of the mouth, but also of the physical and psychological indicators of the conditions.

Eating disorders affect an estimated 725,000 people in the UK - at a cost of around £15 billion per year. The report authors believe that the early identification of the subtle signs of the developing condition, coupled with referrals to GPs, may lead to both better health outcomes and savings for the NHS.

In addition to eating disorders, the research also looked at the role dentists can play in the early identification of GORD, a condition which develops when the reflux of stomach contents causes troublesome symptoms, such as two or more heartburn episodes per week. Regurgitated or vomited stomach contents are highly acidic and repeated contact with tooth enamel and dentine results in ETW.

Lead author Dr Rebecca Moazzez, Reader and Consultant in Restorative Dentistry at King’s College London, said: 

There is a clear benefit to patients of the dental team being able to pick up on the early signs of conditions such as eating disorders or acid reflux, which may appear very subtle and difficult to detect.
Dental examinations should include the possibility of detecting signs of GORD and eating disorders, and if detected, appropriate referral and liaison with medical professionals instigated, leading to better outcomes for the patient.


The King’s Health Partners Dental Clinical Academic Group educates the breadth of oral health care professionals in the UK and cares for more than 300,000 patients each year at more than 30 sites across London.