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Link between anorexia and dental braces needs to be explored – report

A study of the condition in an Irish hospital found that it is developing a younger age and becoming more common in males

Image: weight via Shutterstock

A STUDY OF anorexia nervosa in Ireland has revealed emerging trends that children are developing the condition at a younger age, and that it is becoming more common in males.

It has also suggested a link between orthodontic treatment and weight loss.

The study, published in this month’s Irish Medical Journal (IMJ), looked at patients in Temple Street Children’s Hospital between 2005 and 2011, and found that the average age of children presenting at hospitals had fallen from since the previous study in 2002 from 14 to 13.5.

The authors of the report have also noted with concern that the average date of the condition developing was half a year before the child required medical treatment.

They say that the onset of the condition in childhood ‘without prompt intervention may worsen prognosis’, and that restoring the child’s weight can prove to be more difficult.

At home

Early detection and treatment at home is preferable, they say.

Of the 20 patients involved in the study, 5 had been vomiting, and another 13 reported to be overexercising.

All were “food restricting”, the report says.

Braces

The report also touches on a tentative link between having braces fitted and the condition.

It notes that children are often instructed to avoid eating certain foods when receiving orthodontic treatment, and that eating can be painful as the teeth loosen.

“Oral pain must be considered in cases of unintentional weight loss which could later precipitate disordered eating. Sometimes dental professionals may discourage certain foods if they interfere with treatment which the “perfectionist” child may over-interpret,” the report said.

“Future research should explore the relationship of orthodontics to weight loss.”

It noted that a number of patients had commenced orthodontic treatment prior to the onset of anorexia.

Column: I can’t pinpoint the moment I decided I wasn’t going to eat anymore >

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