Bulimia nervosa can cause major medical problems as well as dental problems. It’s important for patients with Bulimia Nervosa to not neglect their oral health, and should be concern about their overall health.
It may not seem obvious at first that a psychiatric disorder would cause dental problems. However, some of the first signs of Bulimia Nervosa are often seen and diagnose by a dentist.
According to verywell.com, studies have shown that between 47 and 93% of bulimia nervosa patients who vomit reveal damage to the tooth enamel.
If you become involved in self-induced vomiting, you should know the fact that bringing acidic contents from your stomach into your mouth may cause tooth erosion of the enamel surface of your teeth.
This damage usually appears mostly on the inside and biting surfaces of the teeth, and the level of the damage to the enamel can vary between patients to patients. The influence that contributes to one’s sensitivity to tooth erosion includes dietary and bad oral hygiene habits as well as how often the self-induced vomiting occurs.
Furthermore, individuals who induce vomiting up to several times a day have a higher risk of developing dental erosion than those who vomit very often or fewer times a day. Tooth erosion may become clearly visible after only six months of self-induced vomiting. Over time as the enamel is eroded by repeated exposure to gastric acid, teeth may lose their shine, break, turn yellow, wear down, chip, and look ragged.
Your teeth may feel more sensitive to heat and cold. In severe cases, the teeth may die and affect a large area and only expensive dental work can repair the damage that has been seen.
How to prevent Cavities if you have Bulimia nervosa
Regardless of whether or not they occupy oneself with self-induced vomiting, many patients with bulimia nervosa who consume high sugar foods, which can increase the risk for cavities.
Those who vomit have an even higher risk for dental cavities due to the additional stomach acid. Dentists have recognized a higher occurrence of cavities in individuals with bulimia nervosa.
Effect on Mouth and Salivary Glands
Frequent vomiting can cause gum irritation and bleeding and sores on the angles of the lips. It can also cause enlargement of the salivary glands along the lower jawbone and in front of the ear, which can cause a “cheek disease or noma (cancrum oris)” look. Purging may cause a reduction in saliva that can, in turn, lead to dry and/or cracked lips, dry mouth, and a burning sensation in the mouth, particularly on the tongue.
What to Do When You Have Bulimia nervosa
Treatment involves stopping vomiting and paying careful attention to oral hygiene. Recovery is the best way to limit tooth damage and prevent further medical issues. If you are suffering from untreated bulimia nervosa, seek help from a dentist or visit healthcare professional near you for a treatment recommendation.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can be an effective treatment for bulimia nervosa. Self-help versions of cognitive behavioral therapy may also be helpful for some. Once the vomiting has stopped, patients with bulimia nervosa sometimes have a more large area of their teeth repairs.
How to reduce damage to your teeth when you have Bulimia nervosa
In the meantime, if you are still vomiting, there are some things you can do to reduce damage. Patients with bulimia nervosa may have to get medical advice from there dentist not to brush with fluoride toothpaste after vomiting because the dentist observes that fluoride toothpaste we bring more harm than good.
However, this has never been proven. Thus, the current recommendation is to brush gently with fluoride toothpaste and then rinse with a neutral PH mouthwash or a baking soda solution (one teaspoon in one quart of water) to neutralize the acid residue.
Salivary gland swelling may be helped by hot compresses and tart candies. Although you may feel uncomfortable, you should also see a dentist regularly or twice a year as recommended by the dental association for check-ups.
Be sincere with your health professional so that they can help you prevent bulimia nervosa and other important dental issues. Untreated dental problems could also lead to more serious medical complications.
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Hermont, A., Pordeus, I., Paiva, S., Nogueira, M., Abreu, G., & Auad, S. (2013). Eating Disorder Risk Behavior and Dental Implications Among Adolescents. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 46, 677-683.
Uhlen, M., Bveit, A., Stenhage, K., & Mulic, A. (2014). Self-induced vomiting and dental erosion – a clinical study. BMC Oral Health.
Mehler, P. & Rylander, M. (2015). Bulimia Nervosa – medical complications. Journal of Eating Disorders.
Mehler PS and Andersen AE (eds.), 2010. Oral and dental complications (Chapter 10) in Eating Disorders: A Guide to Medical Care and Complications. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
Isreal olabanji is a dental assistant and public health professionals and has years of experience in assisting the dentist with all sorts of dental problems. My goal is to enlighten everyone in all aspects of health towards participating in fitness, Dental care, healthy recipes, child health, obstetrics, and more.
This content is strictly the opinion of Healthsoothe team and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their health professionals regarding specific health questions.
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