Does Bulimia have an Effect on Teeth?

Bulimia is a condition where sufferers binge eat a large amount of food then use a method (typically vomiting) to avoid gaining weight after their binge. The vomiting or removal of the food that has been consumed is referred to as purging. So a bulimic will binge (eat a large quantity of food types in one sitting) and then follow that binge with a purge (vomiting up the food). Many bulimics have distorted self-body images and/or an obsessive desire to lose weight which serves to continue the cycle of binge and purge.

Bulimia is a very serious condition that can become life-threatening if left untreated. Early symptoms of bulimia include dehydration, changes in weight, and swelling in the hands and feet. More serious complications can come later including kidney failure from dehydration, suicidal thoughts or actions, and heart problems such as life-threatening as heart failure. While there are many physical and psychological symptoms and complications associated with bulimia, many are unaware of the damage bulimia can do to a sufferer’s teeth.     

Bulimia has a significant effect on teeth. In fact, it is often dentists who first notice signs of bulimia in their patients who are attempting to keep their affliction a secret. Much of the damage to the teeth from bulimia comes from the purging process. Vomit contains hydrochloric acid which can lead to enamel erosion on teeth with repeated exposure. This erosion typically starts with the upper front teeth as they come in contact with the vomit most frequently. The erosion of the enamel of the teeth leads to an increase risk for tooth decay.

bulimia effects on teeth

Many bulimics will eventually lose teeth if they are not able to get the help they need. Bulimics are encouraged not to immediately brush their teeth after an episode of purging because the enamel is in a weakened state due to the stomach acid and the act of brushing can further erode the tooth enamel. Instead, bulimics should rinse their mouth out with a mixture of baking soda and water after vomiting. When they do brush their teeth, bulimics should use toothpaste that contains fluoride which is an ingredient known to strengthen teeth. If you or a loved one is suffering from bulimia, please seek help immediately. The damage to your body and your teeth can be reversed, but only if you act quickly.

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