THE Oral Health Foundation has highlighted the vital role dentists can play in identifying and acting on early signs of eating disorders.
It believes that thousands of undiagnosed eating disorders can be picked up during regular dental check-ups by dentists, dental hygienists, therapists, and dental nurses.
The organisation has teamed up with Beat, a UK eating disorder charity, to help professionals identify the signs of an eating disorder and understand how to support patients.
In the UK, around 275,000 people suffer from binge eating disorders, 235,000 have bulimia and 100,000 are diagnosed with anorexia. Around 90 per cent of patients with bulimia and 20 per cent with anorexia suffer from enamel erosion. Tooth decay, sensitive teeth, dry mouth and enlarged salivary glands are also common with eating disorders.
Chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, says: "During the routine dental examination, dental teams carry out checks on the hard and soft tissues of the mouth and look for signs of tooth erosion. They will also look for possible injuries to the mouth which could have been induced by inserting foreign objects that cause a person to vomit.
"The UK needs a far better strategy for diagnosing eating disorders early. The sooner an eating disorder is suspected or recognised, then the more effective treatment will be. This treatment extends far beyond any damage caused to the mouth. It is also necessary to instigate wider medical referrals to those who specialise in treating eating disorders."
Beat’s helpline is open 365 days a year on 0808 801 0677 or check out beateatingdisorders.org.uk.