How Bulimia Can Damage Teeth
The effects of bulimia on your teeth are far-reaching. This eating disorder is marked by periods of binging and purging food that exposes your tooth enamel to large amounts of acid.
The soft tissues of your mouth are also vulnerable to damage from bulimia.
The pain and embarrassment that you feel about your unhealthy teeth can add to the mental stress that you experience. You may even be worried that people will know that you have bulimia just by looking at your teeth.
For many patients, dental services are just as important of a part of their bulimia treatment as counseling. Treating your dental problems gives you a sense of control over your health that helps with your recovery.
How Acid Damages Teeth
Your stomach naturally makes acid to help digest your food. Some of this acid comes up every time you vomit. Your tooth enamel is strong enough to handle brief exposure to these acids. However, repeated vomiting increases how long the acids come in contact with your teeth.
Your teeth are also exposed to acids from the food and drinks that you consume during binges. Soda, fruit juice and other sugary beverages are all highly acidic. Food that gets stuck on your teeth can also break down and begin to form acids.
Eventually, the acid begins to break down the tooth enamel. This is called acid erosion. You might be able to see signs of acid erosion on your teeth.
As the enamel thins, the underlying dentin becomes more visible. This can make your teeth look yellower. You may also see white spots and other areas of discoloration. Acid erosion may sometimes have very few symptoms until it reaches a severe point that causes tooth sensitivity.
Types of Dental Damage Bulimia Causes
Once your teeth are weakened by acid erosion, they are more susceptible to other types of damage.
- Your teeth may become brittle and begin to chip more easily.
- People with bulimia may also damage their teeth in their efforts to vomit.
- Sticking fingers or objects in your mouth repeatedly can lead to dental damage.
Frequent vomiting also causes damage to your inner cheeks, lips and gums. You can develop canker sores along with signs of gum disease such as bleeding and swelling. Your salivary glands may also become enlarged.
Dry mouth is another condition that can occur with bulimia. This increases your risk of cavities. It also causes symptoms such as a burning sensation in your mouth and cracked lips that are uncomfortable.
Ways to Improve Your Oral Health
The most important thing you can do is seek help for your bulimia. Stopping the cycle of binging and purging halts the damage that this condition does to your teeth.
You can also take steps to protect your teeth from acid erosion.
Rinsing your mouth with water after an episode of vomiting or drinking acidic beverages helps to restore the pH balance of your saliva.
Regular dental checkups are important for catching early signs of damage to your teeth.
Special fluoride treatments and other dental procedures can restore your comfort and improve the appearance and health of your teeth.
Bulimia treatment frequently includes multiple strategies that help your whole body heal. Your bulimia needs to be treated by a trained mental health professional, but we can help with your teeth.
As always, anything you tell us during your office visits is confidential. We only want to help you take care of your teeth and love how you look when you smile.
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