Invisalign and Disordered Eating

Invisalign and Disordered Eating

Eating compulsions, food obsessions, and aversions are some of the conditions which can transpire or worsen for those who have a shortened window of time to eat their meals. 

So, it’s no wonder that a great number of clear aligner patients associate their #1 pain point to eating issues, since it’s easy to come up with excuses for avoiding meals and snacks. 

The below post will cover: 

1) The leading categories of eating disorders and their associated symptoms

2) Why it’s best to inform your dentist or orthodontist about a pre-existing eating disorder when starting Invisalign

3) How to make a reliable meal structure that’s specific to your needs

Let’s dive in. 

Types of Eating Disorders Explained 

Episodes of disordered eating are brought on by a variety of factors. In fact, genetics also influence a person’s predisposition when it comes to issues surrounding food and dieting. 

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) classifies eating disorders into both physical and mental illnesses. They can become more severe depending on when the condition is first recognized. 

Excessively slow eating, past experience(s) with trauma, and issues with one’s body image may also contribute to the onset of the following four conditions.

Anorexia Nervosa

Diagnosis: Restraining one’s intake of food, largely based on body image distortion and/or intense worries about gaining weight. 

Emotional and behavioral symptoms include: 

  • Binge eating
  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Excessive dieting and/or fasting
  • Consumption of products to promote weight loss (i.e. laxatives, cathartics, and diet pills) 

Physical symptoms include: 

  • Thinning, brittle hair and/or hair loss 
  • Poor circulation and/or swelling of the arms or legs 
  • An irregular menstrual cycle
  • Stomach pain, constipation 

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Diagnosis: A person’s circumvents around food, where sensory characteristics and an emotional detachment from eating are the key classifiers. 

Emotional and behavioral symptoms include: 

  • Limiting oneself to specific food textures 
  • A disinterest in food and/or lack of appetite
  • Significant amounts of weight loss and drop in BMI (body mass index)
  • Gastrointestinal issues (particularly during/after mealtime)

Physical symptoms include: 

  • Coarse skin
  • Dry, brittle nails
  • Poor circulation/body temperature regulation
  • Loss of menstrual period

Bulimia

Diagnosis: Continuous cycles of binge eating and throwing up (purging) in order to eliminate the extra food/anticipated weight gain.  

Emotional and behavioral symptoms include: 

  • Binge eating, immediately followed by purging 
  • Little food consumption or fasting altogether 
  • Excessively exercising or working out too strenuously  
  • Low self-esteem and negative body image

Physical symptoms include: 

  • Puffy, swollen cheeks
  • Weakened muscles/loss of strength
  • Dizziness and fainting spells 
  • Feeling thirsty/dehydration

Binge Eating 

Diagnosis: The act of gorging on mass quantities of food – typically within a 2-hour period. 

Emotional and behavioral symptoms include: 

  • Fear/uncomfortableness when eating around others
  • Snack hoarding and secret food stashes
  • Dramatic weight fluctuations 
  • Developing schedules or routines that account for binge eating sessions

Physical symptoms include: 

  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Stomach pain and/or cramps 
  • Overfullness after consuming too much food
  • Nausea and heartburn 

Keeping Your Clear Aligner Provider Aware of Any Health Issues

Any clear aligner provider will expect that you’ll hold up your end of the bargain with ~154 hours of weekly wear time  but it’s best to be completely honest with your dentist or orthodontist. Especially if the eating constraints may cause you significant stress or if food has been a trigger for you in the past. 

Carve out some time to talk about these concerns in advance, well before signing any paperwork. 

It’s possible that your provider will recommend a different teeth straightening solution or modify your course of treatment, should a change to your eating patterns seem like a potential health risk. 

Approaching Food Anxiety With a Plan of Action

Slow eaters may wish to have two meals a day whereas people who tend to eat quickly might want to divide their food breaks into smaller meals

What really matters is that you’re continuing to eat on a consistent basis and that you're having an appropriate amount of food for your personal requirements. 

As always, youll want to: 

  • Bring snacks on your busiest days and stock your pantry with easy-to-access foods
  • Account for wiggle room if you’re at an event or dining out. Chances are you’ll want to enjoy a few extra minutes of clear aligner freedom
  • Set reasonable goals for what your wear time schedule might look like and try various strategies until you’re able to determine one or two that most align with your needs
  • Track your progress on a monthly or bi-monthly schedule and keep tabs on where you can make room for improvement 

Recap 

Eating disorders affect the lives of roughly 29 million Americans – a number that shouldn’t be taken lightly. 

Although clear aligner treatments put a strong emphasis on making sufficient meal choices, patients find themselves distracted by the strict time constraints. Everyone’s transition period is different and some may find it incredibly difficult to feel settled throughout this “new normal” chapter. 

For all topics that encompass food and nutrition with clear aligners, visit NutrishMe’s Well+Aligned program page

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