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Dental fear, regularity of dental attendance and subjective evaluation of dental erosion in women with eating disorders


Tiril Willumsen, Institute of Clinical Dentistry, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Oslo, PO Box 1109 Blindern, N-0317 Oslo, Norway
Telefax: +47–22852344


This questionnaire study, with a response rate of 53%, examined self-induced vomiting, erosions and dental attendance in women with eating disorders (EDs) as well as dental fear and its effect on attendance and communication with the dentist. A survey of 371 responding women with EDs, who were recruited from a self-help organization, revealed that dental fear was higher in women with EDs compared to the general population. Dental fear was present in 32.1% of women with EDs, and very high dental fear was present in 16.5% of women with EDs. Of those with very high dental fear, 32.3% had not visited a dental clinic at all in the preceding 2 yr, and 43.5% only initiated contact when they had symptoms. Self-induced vomiting was especially frequent in women with bulimia nervosa (87.9%) and in those with more than one ED (the ‘mixed group’) (80.6%). Among those with self-induced vomiting, 45.3% thought that they had erosions, although only 28.4% had erosions diagnosed by a dentist. Of women with EDs, 61.4% failed to disclose their condition. High dental fear did not affect willingness to disclose the ED. We conclude that dentists should examine ED patients carefully for dental erosions. Moreover, they should realize that most ED patients avoid disclosing their disorder and that dental fear further complicates dental treatment in these patients.