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The Effects of Bulimia on Teeth and Oral Health
June 27th, 2013 by Dr. Watson

There is little doubt that bulimia is a serious condition, and it can have a hugely detrimental effect on oral health. It’s something that tends to affect teens and young adults, especially girls and women, but it can affect anyone at any age. One of the first side effects of this destructive condition can be noticing changes to dental health. This is frequently one of the first things that may prompt a sufferer to seek professional help.


People with bulimia often binge eat several times a week, or even several times a day. Afterwards they feel compelled to rid themselves of the food, often by vomiting. The trouble with this is that it brings the teeth into direct contact with powerful stomach acids that are used to help digest food. These stomach acids attack the teeth, causing the teeth to begin eroding. This erosion is due to a process called demineralization occurring. As the acid attacks the tooth enamel it causes essential minerals to be lost, including phosphate and calcium.


Cleaning teeth straight away after vomiting makes the problem even worse, as it’s likely these minerals will be lost forever. Sufferers can help themselves by rinsing the mouth with water, or with water containing a small amount of baking soda as this will help to neutralize the stomach acids. As the pH levels become more normal in the mouth, then a process called re-mineralization can occur. This is where some of the minerals are redeposited back into the tooth enamel, helping to harden it. However repeated vomiting will result in the teeth becoming eroded.


Effects of Bulimia on Teeth

As the tooth enamel becomes thinner the teeth will look darker in color as more of the natural dentin color underneath is exposed. The teeth will become more susceptible towards decay and are likely to become more brittle. They may become shorter due to the erosion, and are likely to be more sensitive towards hot and cold foods due to the thinner layer of enamel.

It doesn’t take long for the effects to become apparent, as teeth can become damaged and eroded within six months of developing bulimia. If the sufferer doesn’t seek treatment then this erosion will continue until the pulp area of the tooth is exposed. This could lead to sufferers developing dental abscesses, and could even lead to the teeth being lost. Bulimia can also lead to a condition called dry mouth, where insufficient saliva is produced. This in turn can increase the risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease.


Treating Bulimia

Treating bulimia can be complicated as it frequently involves addressing emotional issues. This can all take quite some time, but during this period the sufferers need to take extra care with their dental health, and their dentist will be able to offer advice and treatments.


For more information about Bulimia, contact Dr. Watson, your Jackson, MS dentist at Jackson Center for Smiles today.

Source material can be found at www.findmydentist.com.