Eating Disorders & Orthodontics: Teenagers At Risk

Teenagers are at a pivotal stage in their lives, navigating the tumultuous waters of adolescence. It is during this time that they may encounter various challenges, including the development of eating disorders. Coupled with these struggles, many teenagers also face orthodontic treatment to address dental issues such as misaligned teeth or jaw problems. At their most vulnerable, these teenagers find themselves grappling with both eating disorders and orthodontics simultaneously. In this blog post, we will explore how these two factors intertwine and examine the impact they can have on each other. So if you’re a concerned parent or a teenager seeking guidance, keep reading to discover valuable insights into the delicate relationship between eating disorders and orthodontics!

What are the different types of eating disorders?

When it comes to eating disorders, there is no one-size-fits-all. These complex mental health conditions manifest in different ways and can have devastating effects on a teenager’s physical and emotional well-being. Here are some of the most common types of eating disorders:

1. Anorexia Nervosa: This disorder involves an intense fear of gaining weight, leading individuals to severely restrict their food intake. They may also engage in excessive exercise and exhibit distorted body image.

2. Bulimia Nervosa: People with bulimia often go through cycles of binge-eating followed by purging behaviors such as self-induced vomiting or abusing laxatives. The guilt and shame associated with these episodes can be overwhelming.

3. Binge Eating Disorder (BED): Characterized by recurrent episodes of compulsive overeating, BED involves consuming large amounts of food within a short period without compensatory behaviors like purging or excessive exercise.

4. Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): This disorder is characterized by limited food choices based on taste, texture, smell, or other factors unrelated to body shape or weight concerns.

Understanding the various types of eating disorders is crucial for identifying symptoms early on and seeking appropriate help for affected teenagers.

How can orthodontics affect eating disorders in teenagers?

Orthodontics, while aimed at improving dental health and aesthetics, can sometimes have unintended consequences for teenagers with eating disorders. These disorders, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, are serious mental illnesses that affect a person’s relationship with food and their body image.

One way orthodontics can impact eating disorders is through the physical discomfort they may cause. Teens undergoing orthodontic treatment often experience pain or soreness due to adjustments made to their braces or aligners. This discomfort can exacerbate feelings of anxiety around eating and further reinforce negative behaviors associated with their disorder and at their most vulnerable these teenagers are encountering orthodontics.

Additionally, some orthodontic treatments may restrict certain types of foods that are difficult to eat with braces or aligners. For individuals already struggling with disordered eating patterns, this restriction could be seen as an opportunity to further control their food intake or avoid certain foods altogether.

Furthermore, the focus on appearance during orthodontic treatment may also contribute to body dissatisfaction in teenagers already vulnerable to developing eating disorders. Constantly scrutinizing their teeth and smile throughout the treatment process can intensify pre-existing concerns about weight and shape.

It is crucial for orthodontists and healthcare professionals working with teenagers undergoing orthodontic treatment to be aware of these potential risks. Collaboration between dentists, therapists, and dieticians can help provide comprehensive care that takes into account both the physical aspects of treatment and the psychological well-being of the patient.

By recognizing these connections between orthodontics and eating disorders in teenagers early on, it becomes possible to implement strategies that promote healthy attitudes towards food and body image alongside any necessary dental interventions

The pros and cons of orthodontic treatment for eating disorders

Orthodontic treatment can have both pros and cons when it comes to addressing eating disorders in teenagers. Let’s take a closer look at these factors.

On the positive side, orthodontics can help improve a teenager’s self-esteem and body image. By correcting misaligned teeth or jaw issues, orthodontic treatment can enhance their smile and overall facial appearance. This boost in confidence may contribute to a more positive mindset and potentially aid in their recovery from an eating disorder.

Additionally, orthodontics may assist with proper chewing and digestion of food. When teeth are properly aligned, it becomes easier for teenagers to chew their food thoroughly, which aids in digestion. This can be especially beneficial for individuals who struggle with certain eating disorder behaviors such as binge-eating or purging.

However, there are potential drawbacks to consider as well. For some teenagers with existing body image concerns related to their weight or appearance, undergoing orthodontic treatment could exacerbate these anxieties. The physical changes that occur during treatment may trigger negative thoughts or fuel obsessive behaviors associated with their eating disorder.

Furthermore, teens may experience difficulties adapting to the discomfort caused by braces or other orthodontic devices while trying to manage their eating disorder symptoms such as restricted food intake or excessive exercise. The added stress of dealing with both simultaneously could lead to increased anxiety levels and potentially hinder progress towards recovery.

It is essential for healthcare professionals involved in the care of these individuals – whether it be therapists specializing in treating eating disorders or dentists providing orthodontic care –to collaborate closely throughout the process. A multidisciplinary approach ensures that all aspects of a teenager’s health and well-being are considered holistically.

While there are potential benefits of orthodontic treatment for teens struggling with eating disorders such as improved self-esteem and better digestion; there are also possible drawbacks regarding body image concerns and additional stress on top of managing their condition effectively.

How to get help for an eating disorder

It can be incredibly challenging for teenagers to seek help for an eating disorder. However, it is crucial to remember that there are professionals and resources available to guide them on their journey towards recovery.

One of the first steps in getting help is reaching out to a trusted adult or healthcare provider. This could be a parent, teacher, counselor, or doctor who can offer support and connect them with the appropriate resources. It’s important for teenagers to know that they don’t have to face this alone.

A comprehensive treatment plan often involves a multidisciplinary approach. This may include working with therapists specializing in eating disorders, registered dietitians who specialize in nutrition counseling, and medical professionals who can monitor overall health and address any physical complications related to the disorder.

Support groups and peer networks can also play a vital role in recovery. Connecting with others who have experienced similar challenges provides a sense of understanding and community during the healing process.

Additionally, online platforms and helplines offer confidential support for those seeking guidance outside of traditional therapy sessions. These resources may provide valuable information about local treatment centers or virtual support options tailored specifically for teenagers struggling with eating disorders.

Remember that recovery takes time – it’s not an overnight fix. Encourage patience as progress is made step by step. With proper professional guidance, emotional support from loved ones, and access to helpful resources, teenagers can find hope on their path toward healing from eating disorders.


It is crucial to recognize the potential impact of orthodontic treatment on teenagers with eating disorders. While orthodontics can provide numerous benefits for dental health and physical appearance, it is essential to approach these treatments with caution when dealing with vulnerable individuals.

Teenagers experiencing eating disorders are already going through immense emotional and psychological challenges. The added pressure of orthodontic treatment teens may have trouble breathing – this is an anxiety symptom and potentially lead to negative outcomes.

It is vital for parents, caregivers, and healthcare professionals to be vigilant in identifying signs of an eating disorder in teenagers undergoing orthodontic treatment. Early intervention and a multidisciplinary approach involving mental health professionals, nutritionists, and dentists can help address the underlying issues contributing to the disorder while ensuring appropriate dental care.

If you suspect that your teenager may have an eating disorder or are concerned about their well-being during orthodontic treatment, seek professional help immediately. Remember that early intervention significantly increases the chances of successful recovery.

Supporting teenagers through this challenging time requires empathy, understanding, and open communication. By working together as a team – including the teenager themselves – we can help them navigate both their oral health needs and any underlying struggles they may be facing.

Remember: every teenager deserves proper dental care alongside comprehensive support for their overall well-being.