Bulimia nervosa, Binge-purge behavior, or eating disorder
Bulimia is an eating disorder in which the person frequently binges and then purges, or eats large amounts of food and then regurgitates it. Bulimia is a disease that can have particularly harmful effects on your health, especially your teeth.
When a person vomits, stomach acid enters the mouth which can be very damaging to the teeth, eroding the enamel and causing the teeth to appear dark, stained and grey in color. Overtime the teeth can actually be worn down, creating jagged edges that can chip and break. It can change the bite as the teeth wear away and become shorter. The teeth progressively become more sensitive as the enamel is worn away.
Many more woman than men have this disorder and usually is found in woman 18-35 years of age. The person is aware they have a problem. They feel shame, guilt and fear. The person eats large quantities of food in secret. Binging leads to self-disgust.
An eating disorder is one of the hardest addictions to overcome as people have to eat. People that are bulimic can also be anorexic, and suffer from depression. The patient may need medication and therapy to help overcome the problem.
Bulimia can occur several times a day and go on for months or even years. Purging is used to control weight.
- forcing your self to vomit
- excessive exercise
- uses of diuretics, laxatives, enemas or emetics (are drugs that to make you vomit)
A person that is bulimic looks like they are a normal weight. Their perception of themselves is that they are fat. It may go undiagnosed because they look normal.
Symptoms that another person might notice are:
- smell of vomit in the bathroom
- plastic bags filled with vomit
- compulsive exercise
- large amounts of food disappearing
- going to the bathroom right after eating
- finding wrappers from laxatives, diet pills, diuretics, or emetics
- eating large pieces of food very rapidly
- extreme concern about weight and body image
The physician may see the following signs:
- broken blood vessels in the eyes (straining while vomiting)
- dry mouth
- small cuts or calluses on the knuckles from forcing oneself to vomit
- rashes especially around the lips, pimples
- pouch-like look to the cheeks
How Bulimia Affects Oral Health
A dentist may be the first health care professional to diagnosis bulimia.
The dentist may see telltale signs of bulimia. They are:
- the gums look dryer and redder
- wear of the enamel especially on the lingual (back) side of the upper teeth
- Pitting of the posterior teeth
- is an increase level of decay from the stomach acid eating away at the teeth
- The teeth begin to chip wear and become shorter. Spaces between the teeth develop
- The teeth become more sensitive
- the teeth become greyer in appearance
- sores or cuts on the palate from fingers or objects used to help the person vomit
It is advisable not to brush after vomiting. Baking soda mixed with water should be used to rinse out the mouth. It will help neutralize the acid. Brushing your teeth after purging will only help grind the stomach acid into your teeth.
High-concentrated fluoride toothpaste is prescribed to help fight tooth decay, further breakdown of the teeth, and sensitivity. Custom mouth trays are made so fluoride applications can be done at home on a frequent basis. Cosmetic dentistry is an important part of the treatment process for an eating disorder. Restoring the look of beautiful healthy, and natural looking teeth can help preserve the patient’s self esteem after recovery. Dr. Hurley can take steps to help preserve and maintain your oral health while you’re still recovering from your illness.
GERD ( gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a condition where stomach acid comes up and splashes the lower end of the esophagus. It irritates it and can cause change into the tissue of the esophagus. It can mimic bulimia as the acid can eat away the enamel. Sometimes pregnant women can have GERD as the baby grows larger and pushes up on the abdomen. GERD can cause an irritated throat, dry mouth, dry cough, regurgitation of food and sour liquid. The teeth need to be protected from GERD as there is a higher rate of sensitivity, and the teeth chipping and being worn down.
I would like to thank Amanda and Suzanne for graciously sharing their very personal stories with you. Their hope in sharing their experiences is to help prevent others from going through what they have gone through.