Bulimia is an eating disorder in which people binge-eat large amounts of food followed by purging.
Purging behaviour might include: vomiting, fasting or engaging in other behaviours like using laxatives
or exercising to excess. This is done to rid their bodies of all the extra calories. These constant cycles of
binge-eating and purging adversely affect the heart, kidneys, and other organs. But it can be especially
damaging to dental health.
The changes in the oral cavity in bulimic individuals are often recognisable. During frequent vomiting, the
stomach acids come in contact with the teeth and erode them. This can erode the enamel layer, especially
on the tongue side of the upper front teeth. Multiple teeth with erosive lesions are seen in bulimic
individuals. Dental erosions cause severe hypersensitivity to hot and cold food and increase the risk for
decay. Erosion in multiple teeth can lead to changes in your bite and a reduction in the size of the back
teeth. Dental erosions typically take about three years to become evident, and not all bulimics experience
it. There may be a change in the colour and texture of the teeth. Your teeth may also be weaker and more
brittle than usual.
Frequent throwing up may cause your salivary glands to swell and the tissues of your mouth and tongue
to become dry, red, and sore. People with bulimia may have a chronic sore throat and small haemorrhages
under the skin of the palate. In addition, oral ulcers are expected as the stomach acid also wears off the
oral soft tissues.
Many bulimic individuals are malnourished and have anaemia, thus experience poor healing and increase
the risk of periodontal disease.
At the dentist
It is essential to visit your dentist regularly as they can detect decay or infections. Dental treatment is an
an integral part of treatment for bulimia.
If you are bulimic, you may be given fluoride treatments during your dental visits or fluoride gel for home
Suppose you have severe tooth damage and are still undergoing treatment for bulimia. In that case, your
dentist may give you an appliance that would cover all your teeth surfaces and protects them from the
assault of the stomach acids.
Dental erosions and decayed teeth may need to be restored. It can be done using materials called composite
resin or glass ionomer. More severely eroded teeth will require tooth extraction or root canal treatments.
Lost teeth can be replaced with bridges or implants.
Suppose you are undergoing the treatment of your eating disorder. In that case, it may take a while to
control the episodes of purging. You can rinse your mouth with baking soda mixed in water to minimise
the damage by the acids during vomiting. You can also rinse your mouth with a fluoride mouthwash
containing. Never brush your teeth immediately after purging, as that would wear off the enamel weakened
by the acid. Use fluoridated toothpaste as fluoride can strengthen your teeth.
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