Author: John M. Farley, DDS
During the past year I have had a couple of patients present with some interesting health problems. Of course, the reason they were in my chair was to receive dental treatment, which I was happy to do. After their treatment I have given thought and consideration to how I could have better met their needs.
Both patients were thin and weight conscious. They had upper lingual hypocalcification with extensive caries, the kind where it’s hard to find a definite border between healthy and hypocalcified enamel. I took care of their dentistry, but I could have been more instrumental in helping them seek treatment for their other needs.
I’m sure that any dentist who has been in practice for a time has had opportunity to see and treat patients like the two I’ve recently seen. I realize that as a dentist I can see some early” signs of anorexia and bulimia. These patients’ conditions will probably worsen considerably before their medical doctor will be contacted.
In retrospect, I would have liked to involve my hygienist in their treatment. She may have been in a better position to get a young female patient’s confidence and perhaps be more influential in getting them into the care and counseling that was needed. Because of our unique opportunities to perform oral exams on otherwise healthy teens we are in a position to detect early signs and symptoms of eating disorders and have an impact on helping these patients receive treatment.
As professionals we need to recognize the symptoms and be more proactive in guiding patients toward needed counseling. I believe it would be helpful to have more continuing education in recognizing the clinical signs and symptoms of anorexia and bulimia. We should also have at out fingertips good referral choices for our patients with these conditions.
Date Written: Unknown
Reviewed and Edited: November 2014