Bulimia is an illness characterized by a cycle of binging on high-calorie foods and then purging them, sometimes by vomiting. This illness can lead to serious health complications throughout your body, including within your mouth. Here are three ways that bulimia affects your oral health.
Tooth erosion occurs when the enamel, the hard material on the outside of your teeth, is worn away by acids. When you vomit, your teeth are exposed to your highly-acidic stomach contents, and over time, the acids will eat away at your enamel. This leads to tooth sensitivity and may also make your teeth look smaller or yellower. This can pose serious cosmetic issues.
Your dentist can help you prevent tooth erosion. You may be given a custom-made tray and fluoride gel; this gel helps to strengthen your tooth enamel. You may also be told to rinse your mouth with a baking soda and water solution after you vomit to neutralize acids inside your mouth. Once your enamel has eroded, it won't grow back, so prevention is key. Once your enamel has eroded, cosmetic treatments like veneers or crowns will be necessary to replace it.
Frequent vomiting is also a risk factor for tooth decay, so people with bulimia need to be concerned about cavities. This occurs as a result of tooth erosion. The acid forms pits in your enamel as it dissolves the outer layer of your teeth, and food and bacteria can then get stuck in these pits. As the bacteria feeds on the sugars inside your mouth, it produces acids, and these acids produce the holes in your teeth that form cavities.
To repair the damage, your dentist will need to remove the decayed portions of your enamel and then replace them with an artificial filling. If the decay is severe, you may need to have a tooth-colored cap known as a crown fitted on top of your tooth to repair the damage.
Frequent vomiting may lead to dehydration, and dehydration leads to a lack of saliva inside your mouth. Saliva is important because it helps to keep your mouth clean; it washes away particles of food and helps to fight off bacteria. Without enough saliva, bacteria can accumulate along the gum line and lead to an infection known as gum disease.
Gum disease makes your gums red and swollen. Your gums are a big part of your smile, so this can lead to self confidence issues, but gum disease is also painful. If it's not treated, it will get worse and may lead to more serious problems like tooth loss. Your dentist can treat it by thoroughly cleaning your teeth and gums. To prevent a recurrence, you'll also need to keep your mouth moist by sipping water more frequently or by using products like artificial saliva.
If you have bulimia, you are at risk of oral health complications like enamel erosion, tooth decay, or gum disease.
For more information on cosmetic dentistry, contact a dentist such as P. Jeffrey Lowe, DMD, PA.