Bulimia is an eating disorder in which people consume large amounts of food and end up eating far more than their body needs. As a result, they can sometimes face indigestion and heartburn.
Then to clear out the symptoms or to get rid of the extra calories they vomit, fast, or get involved in some other ‘purging’ behavior such as rigorous exercises.
This constant cycle of overeating and purging affects the heart, kidneys, and other organs. But bulimia can also cause significant damage to your teeth.
How Bulimia Impacts Your Oral Health
Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by bingeing and purging, often by vomiting in an attempt to control the body weight and relieve anxiety. It is a serious medical condition that can lead to a variety of negative outcomes and medical consequences.
There are many consequences that arise from the relationship between bulimia and teeth. By repeatedly regurgitating food, the oral cavity and teeth are exposed to stomach acid which erodes the enamel of the teeth as well as damages the oral mucosa. This can lead to discoloration of the teeth as well as cause them to be sensitive to heat and cold.
As the bulimic cycle continues over time, teeth become more and more damaged. They can develop cavities as well as become infected, or even require extraction. Enamel erosion is generally greatest on the upper teeth surfaces facing the tongue.
Along with direct damage from exposure to stomach acid, bulimia and teeth are also intertwined because of the chronic inflammation caused by vomiting to the salivary glands. Swelling and inflammation of the salivary glands causes less saliva to be produced and leads to the oral cavity drying out.
Saliva is protective of the teeth and without it, the teeth are more prone to cavities, erosion, and infection. Furthermore, bulimia and teeth affect one another because bulimics may be malnourished. This can lead to poor healing and an increased risk of periodontal disease.
Frequent vomiting is undoubtedly bad for your teeth. Vomit is highly acidic as it contains stomach acids. These acids are corrosive, and when they reach your mouth, they can erode the tooth enamel that protects your teeth.
After vomiting, people often brush too hard to get rid of the residues, not realizing that it also leads to further tooth damage. After having just been exposed to acid, enamel is in a weakened state and should not be brushed vigorously. Even after vomiting from the flu or food poisoning, it’s better to rinse with water immediately, rather than brushing.
Tooth erosion can also change the color and texture of your teeth. Your teeth might turn yellow and may be weaker and more brittle.
Because of the weakness, your teeth might chip easily and look worn out at the bottom. Moreover, bulimia can also change the length and shape of your teeth.
Just like the stomach acid can wear away the tooth enamel, it can also damage the skin on the roof and sides of your mouth.
It can result in painful sores inside your mouth and throat. The worst thing happens for some people, and they feel like having a constant sore throat.
Bulimics in Recovery – Working with a Dentist
Bulimics who are in recovery can work with their dentist to reverse some of the effects created by bulimia and teeth.
For instance, in the early stages of erosion, dentists may be able to restore the teeth via a composite resin or amalgam. If the teeth have suffered more extensive damage, placing crowns on the teeth may be necessary.
While in recovery, dentists can work with bulimics and teeth to lessen the damage caused by relapses. A dentist may be able to provide a recovering bulimic with an appliance to protect the teeth from stomach acid during vomiting.
In addition, he or she can provide fluoride treatments in the office, as well as fluoride mouthwashes or toothpaste to further strengthen the teeth. Dentists working with recovering bulimics may also recommend swishing water with baking soda in the oral cavity to neutralize stomach acid.
To supplement saliva, recovering bulimics may also be advised to drink plenty of water to keep the mouth moist as well as use a saliva substitute. Over time, inflammation should decrease and saliva production should increase to normal levels.
Bulimia affects many of the body systems and can lead to devastating consequences, including death. Bulimia is a serious medical condition that requires proper treatment.
Bulimics in recovery can work with their dentist to restore their oral health and recreate a beautiful smile.