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The Effect Of Bulimia On Your Teeth

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 4 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
The Effect Of Bulimia On Your Teeth

Dentists are often the first people to notice that someone has an eating disorder. Bulimia sufferers will have noticeable differences in the condition of their teeth, and if the condition is left untreated the final outcome could be the complete loss of all teeth.

What is Bulimia?

Bulimia nervosa is a psychiatric problem that takes the form of overeating and purging by self induced vomiting. In most cases the sufferer can go through what seems like a period of normal eating habits interspersed with excessive dieting. This will then be followed by binge eating and then the purging of food. Bulimics have various ways of inducing vomiting such as pushing fingers or other implements such as a toothbrush into the back of the mouth.

Bulimia is a compulsive psychiatric disorder where the sufferer feels that they have no control over their weight. The condition will usually begin in the late teens but can occur earlier. Bulimia is often linked with anorexia and the condition can run in families. Although it is mainly a condition that affects females, one in ten bulimics are male.

Bulimia and your Teeth

Bulimia can cause very serious dental problems, and the longer the condition exists the worse the problem will be. The frequent vomiting that occurs with bulimics can cause the enamel on teeth to wear down over time, resulting in tooth decay, tooth loss, and gum disease.

Gastric acid in the mouth as a result of vomiting will wear down the tooth enamel and can also cause the teeth to become soft. The gum line can also become eroded and the consequence of this can be fillings jutting out over the gum line.

Symptoms of Dental Problems

There are warning signs that dentists will look out for that will identify dental problems consistent with an eating disorder. Bulimics will usually try and keep their disorder a secret and in many cases a dentist will be the first person to spot the problem. These warning signs can include:

  • Red, cracked and/or dry lips.
  • The erosion of tooth enamel due to continued exposure to gastric acid.
  • A dry mouth due to the decrease in the flow of saliva.
  • The salivary glands may be enlarged.
  • Some redness may be apparent on the palate and in the throat.
  • Gum tissue erosion.
  • Fillings may appear higher especially around the back teeth.
  • A change in the bite of the bulimic due to teeth becoming loose.
  • There may also be severe dental pain.

Dental Advice for Bulimics

Although dentists can be the first people to spot signs of bulimia it does not always mean they will discuss the problem with the patient. Most dentists will give advice on how to treat the related dental problems but many will not discuss the actual eating disorder with the patient.If you suffer from bulimia and your teeth are showing signs of dental problems then there are a few ways to lessen or slow down the damage.

Dentists will advice bulimics not to brush their teeth immediately after purging. Brushing immediately after purging will turn the teeth yellow and will also speed up the tooth decay process; it is advisable rinse the mouth with water instead. Chewing antacids will also help counteract the gastric acid, and chewing gum will also help increase the flow of saliva. Always use fluoride toothpastes and mouthwashes to help reduce tooth decay.

Dental Treatments for Bulimics

The consequences for a bulimic’s teeth can be severe and loss of teeth is not an uncommon occurrence. Tooth erosion can occur over a very short space of time if purging is frequent. Dentists will advise a complete dental plan including dental restorations using crowns and resins for damaged teeth. Dentists and dental hygienists will be sympathetic to the problem and a private consultation is recommended to discuss the problem and the treatments available.

Fortunately there is much help available for the bulimia sufferer and the problem should be tackled as early as possible. If you do suffer from bulimia and your teeth are showing signs of erosion or discomfort it is vital that you contact a dentist as soon as possible to reduce any further damage to the teeth.

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When I was 13 I suffered from annorexia nervosa till I was 15, then 17-21 I suffered from bulimia. It was the most horrific time of my life. I had a heart attack at 17 and was very poorly. I also worked full time and had to try and hide this horrid disease. I didn't go to the dentist for a while as I didn't want the dentist to know I was bulimic. I then finally ot a job at a dentist as I was on the road to recovery! I needed 10 fillings, I was so upset and still get very upset now. People think I eat sweets all the time but it was because I was ill. I think people can be very judgmental on the state of your mouth. I still have sproblems with my teeth as I have had very large fillings. My advice to anyone that suffers from bulimia is to go to the dentist and get your teeth checked don't leave it like I did. I am a fully recovered anorexic and bulimic and it took me 8 years of hard work and a lot of damage to my body. There's help out there !
tish - 27-Jun-11 @ 9:40 PM
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