Bulimia's Effect on Your Teeth


In the not-too-distant past, a youngster with a crayon and a sense of humor could almost always win some laughs by blacking out a pretty girl's tooth on a subway poster. The result would look a lot like Mammy Yokum without the pipe. The truth is that regardless of how attractive a person may be, it doesn't take long for a missing tooth to ruin a great impression. Sadly, for all bulimia sufferers, the specter of future tooth loss lurks around every corner.

Although appearance matters to everyone, it is often more important to bulimia sufferers than it is to the rest of the population. You may be one of these sufferers yourself. If you are, you probably turned to the habit originally as a means of losing a pound or two or preventing the return of weight you'd previously shed. Either way, you want to look better, not worse, and your smile is a vital part of that. Regrettably, it's also a part with which regular bingeing and purging is bound to wreak havoc.

How Bulimia Can Damage Your Teeth

While most people realize the damage that habitual vomiting will do their physical health, not everyone is aware of the relentless harm it will also do to their teeth. That's because the food that comes up when purging differs in significant ways from the food that went down earlier. Regurgitated stomach contents are jam-packed with acids meant to help your body digest your meal. Once these acids have left your stomach in the wrong direction, they waste little time in burning the tissues of your throat and mouth and eroding your tooth enamel.

While your stomach is designed to handle acidic conditions, your mouth and teeth are not. With continued abuse, your tooth enamel will wear away, resulting in sensitivity to foods that are hot or cold. Your teeth may acquire an aging yellow tint or glassy appearance while a subsequent tendency to chip or break off causes a ragged smile. Unfortunately, once the damage is done, it's done. There is no way to reverse it. Your teeth will never grow back.

Bulimia and the Rest of Your Mouth

If you binge and purge on a regular basis, your teeth aren't the only part of your mouth to suffer. The acids in your stomach bile will also irritate your salivary glands as they eat away at the gums and dental tissue. This can lead to painful sores on the cheeks and gums along with a possible swelling of the jaw. Your throat and mouth will often feel parched, and the dryness in your mouth will encourage further decay in teeth whose enamel has already reached a dangerous stage of erosion.

As your teeth continue to wear away, your bite is likely to change. To make matters even worse, the malnutrition caused by an insufficient diet can increase your risk for periodontal disease. As another unwanted side effect, the foods you do eat on a regular basis may eventually start to taste somewhat strange and unpalatable.

Bulimia and Dental Treatment

If bulimia has caused severe damage to your teeth, you'll need to start treating them with extra care. Try not to brush too vigorously after purging, as this can further destroy them. Rinse with a mixture of water and baking soda to reduce acidity in your mouth, and ask your dentist to prescribe a fluoride gel or mouthwash.

Once your bulimia is under control, Dr. James While can get to work restoring your smile. Tooth enamel will never regenerate, but in some cases where it is not too badly worn, Dr. White will be able to replace it with amalgam or composite resin while filling cavities in teeth that have suffered decay. However, if your teeth have become too badly damaged, some will likely require extraction and subsequent replacement with implants or removable bridges.

Since your teeth are not the only part of your mouth to suffer under bulimia, Dr. White will also work up a plan of comprehensive care to deal with mouth sores, dryness, infected gums and other unfortunate effects that have resulted from the condition.

If bulimia has damaged your health and your smile, call Dr. White today for a full dental appraisal. With a combination of medical and cosmetic procedures, he will restore your mouth to and teeth to their former state of glory. Those 1950s poster girls with blacked-out teeth may have looked unattractive, but with the help of Dr. White, that won't have to happen to you.