Understanding How Bulimia Nervosa Can Impact Dental Health

People with bulimia nervosa often develop dental problems that link back to their disordered eating behaviors. Without care at bulimia nervosa treatment centers, these dental issues tend to escalate – along with the many other complications caused by bulimia nervosa.

Through eating disorder treatment, it is possible for people to become recovered and preserve their dental health before too much damage occurs. To better understand this link, use this guide to learn how bulimia nervosa can impact dental health — and how eating disorder recovery can help prevent dental problems.

The Binge-Purge Cycle and Its Impact on Dental Health

When people with bulimia nervosa vomit during the binge-purge cycle, their gastric system brings acids into their mouth and throat. Upon contact with the teeth, these acidic compounds wreak havoc on their protective enamel layer.

Since exposure to these acids happens so frequently, the enamel cannot rebuild the lost minerals as occurs with normal exposure to acidic foods and drinks. As a result, these acids will completely break down the enamel, leaving the inner tooth surfaces exposed.

Other oral health issues caused by these acids include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Enlargement of the salivary glands
  • Bleeding gums
  • Damage to the soft palate
  • Difficulty swallowing

To prevent these dental problems and other health complications caused by bulimia nervosa, people can work toward becoming recovered at supportive eating disorder facilities.

Timeline of Dental Damage from Bulimia Nervosa

Erosion of the tooth enamel can happen quite quickly when people with bulimia nervosa frequently engage in self-induced vomiting. Within just six months, the teeth can start to lose their shine as the outer enamel layer wears away. The eroded tooth surfaces start to turn a yellow hue as the dentin shows through. Since dentin is much softer than enamel, the damaged teeth may start to chip and crack without the protective outer layer intact.

At this point, cavities can easily form deep in the dentin and root of the tooth, often necessitating a root canal or other restorative procedures. As the damage continues, the only option remaining is to replace the damaged teeth with implants or dentures. Since a decline in dental health happens so rapidly, people with bulimia nervosa need to seek care from eating disorder facilities early and often to become and remain recovered.

Complications Caused by Enamel Erosion

Enamel erosion can negatively impact quality of life in many ways, though treatment at eating disorder recovery centers and care from a skilled dental professional can help. As enamel erosion turns teeth yellow and damages their structure, self-confidence levels often start to plummet. This can exacerbate existing body image issues and trigger disordered thought patterns and behaviors. In addition, the worsening dental damage makes it difficult to hide or explain away, resulting in increased isolation and the deterioration of social networks.

Advanced enamel erosion leaves the dentin completed exposed in some areas, increasing sensitivity to hot and cold. Some people may even find it painful to eat or drink hot and cold substances as the enamel breaks down. These individuals may then find it difficult to follow a healthy daily diet that does not exacerbate their dental problems. Even brushing and flossing can cause pain after enamel erosion has progressed to an advanced state.

All of these problems tend to continue to worsen over time until people with bulimia nervosa acquire care at quality eating disorder facilities.

Getting Help from Eating Disorder Treatment Centers

Thankfully, enamel erosion from bulimia nervosa is preventable. Through care at eating disorder treatment centers, people can stop engaging in the disordered eating behaviors that cause enamel erosion to accelerate. Without gastric acids coming up and affecting the teeth, enamel erosion and many of the other dental complications stop progressing. Dentists can then repair the damage using restorative techniques to resolve dental problems caused by bulimia nervosa.