Bulimia is an eating disorder with dental consequences. Eating disorders have become very common in our weight-obsessed nation. Too many people are caught up in the cycle of binge eating, and then purging, to stay thin. Bulimia is a problem for one half million people in this country. Most victims of bulimia feel out-of-control. They want to stop, and can't, so they hide their secret. Bulimia shows signs in a patient's mouth. Here's what we see in someone addicted to binge-and-purge cycles:
- Enamel eaten away on insides of upper front teeth from daily exposure to stomach acids
- 'Moth-eaten' edges of front teeth
- Heightened sensitivity to heat and cold because erosion has thinned tooth enamel
- Chemical erosion of enamel around fillings
- Gum tissue damage
Bringing bulimia under control takes time. There are simple steps that will slow the erosion of teeth and gums. First, bulimics shouldn't brush after purging (brushing will only embed more acid in tooth enamel). They should use a sodium bicarbonate rinse to neutralize the acid. A bulimic could probably benefit from home fluoride treatments for damaged enamel. And de-sensitizing agents can be used to help teeth stand up to heat and cold.
If you or someone you care about is caught up in the cycle of bulimia, please seek help.