What Is Bulimia?
When it comes to bulimia, an eating disorder characterized by food binges followed by attempts to eliminate the calories consumed through unhealthy means, the condition can affect individuals in a variety of ways, including their oral health. Those with bulimia may also have anorexia, a condition marked by an unhealthy fear of weight gain and an obsession with maintaining an unhealthy low body weight. However, some individuals with bulimia may maintain a normal weight.
Bulimia typically comes in two forms: purging and non-purging. Purging bulimia involves individuals attempting to eliminate calories by vomiting or abusing laxatives, while non-purging bulimia involves fasting, strict dieting, or excessive exercise to eliminate calories.
If you are struggling with bulimia, it’s essential to seek the help of a healthcare professional, such as a doctor, counselor, or mental health expert. For individuals seeking an Irvine dentist to help address oral health concerns related to bulimia, compassionate and confidential care is available at Rice Dentistry.
Purging Bulimia and Teeth Damage
Of all the forms of bulimia, purging bulimia poses the most significant threat to dental health, causing a variety of harmful effects on teeth. Some of these effects include erosion of tooth enamel, cavities, cracked or broken teeth, tooth sensitivity, gum inflammation, bleeding, and pain, dry mouth, and pain and swelling in the throat.
Repeated vomiting, a hallmark of purging bulimia, erodes tooth enamel, which is the protective outer layer of teeth. This erosion exposes the softer dentin underneath, often leading to tooth sensitivity. Additionally, the erosion makes teeth more susceptible to further damage such as decay caused by bacteria or chipping or cracking from biting or chewing. Unfortunately, brushing teeth after purging can worsen enamel damage, as the tooth enamel becomes soft and vulnerable to wear by a toothbrush.
Purging bulimia can also impact the soft tissue in the mouth. Salivary glands may become damaged, leading to dry mouth with dehydration. The gums may be sore, inflamed, and bleed, while other surfaces in the mouth, such as the palate, top, or bottom of the mouth, may also bleed. Chronic soreness in the throat and difficulty swallowing are also common symptoms associated with purging bulimia.
Nonpurging Bulimia and Teeth Damage
While vomiting is a well-known cause of teeth damage in bulimia, there are other unhealthy habits associated with the disorder that can also harm teeth. Irvine dentists advise patients with bulimia to be aware of these habits to prevent further damage.
One common bulimic habit is the use of a lemonade cleanse or high-citrus diet to control calories. However, citrus fruits and juices are highly acidic and can be as damaging to teeth as stomach acid. Long-term consumption of acidic beverages can lead to serious erosion and other dental issues.
Excessive exercise is another bulimic habit that can harm teeth. During periods of high exercise, pH levels of saliva can drop, leading to the erosion of teeth by the saliva itself.
Dehydration, a common side effect of bulimia, can reduce the production of saliva. This decrease in saliva leads to an increase in bacteria growth in the mouth, which can cause further damage such as cavities and gum disease.
Binging and Teeth Damage
In addition to purging, binging behavior can also contribute to teeth damage in those with bulimia. Bingeing on high-sugar foods can feed bacteria in the mouth, increasing the risk of cavities.
Due to the often secretive nature of binges, oral care may be neglected, leading to further damage to teeth. If you’re struggling with bulimia, it’s important to prioritize oral health care as part of your recovery.
At Rice Dentistry in Irvine, we provide compassionate and confidential care to help restore damage to your teeth.
Preventing and Repairing Teeth Damage
Getting treatment for bulimia is the first step in controlling teeth damage. While your bulimia is still present, only provisional dental care may be possible, which can slow damage to your teeth but cannot stop it. Working with a dentist during bulimia treatment can help you prevent further damage to your teeth.
Once your bulimia is under control, we at Rice Dentistry in Irvine can begin repairing damage to your teeth caused by bulimia. Our advanced cosmetic dentistry procedures can often give you an attractive smile that shows no evidence of your former condition.
If you’re struggling with bulimia and its effects on your oral health, please call us at (949) 551-5902 or schedule an appointment with us today. Our compassionate and confidential care can help you restore your oral health and boost your confidence.