People with bulimia nervosa face an array of potential health complications related to the disorder. One of these is the increased risk of dental health issues that can be painful and disfiguring. Without care at eating disorder treatment centers, these issues will become worse over time, so it’s essential to begin recovery as soon as possible.
Considering some of the other health risks involved with a bulimia nervosa diagnosis – malnutrition, heart, liver, and kidney failures, insomnia, the ending of menstruation – you might think a few cavities aren’t a huge issue. However, the damage done to the teeth can be irreversible and very painful. To better understand this link, use this guide to learn how bulimia nervosa can impact dental health and how timely treatment can help prevent dental problems.
Binging, Purging, and Dental Health
Bulimia nervosa is defined by a repeated binging and purging cycle, most commonly involving self-induced vomiting. This beings gastric and other stomach acids into the mouth frequently. Upon contact with the teeth, these acids begin to wear down their protective enamel layer.
Enamel can be protected to a certain degree by specialized toothpaste and options available from the dentist, but repeated exposure to the acids will inevitably begin to etch away at the teeth. This can cause cavities and the removal of the exterior layers, leaving the nerves and soft interior exposed.
Over time, many dental health effects come into play, such as:
- Dry mouth
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands
- Bleeding gums
- Damage to the soft palate
- Difficulty swallowing
Many quality eating disorder treatment centers that specialize in treating bulimia nervosa will include a dental consult or even a dentist on-staff to help with the dental health consequences of BN.
How Quickly Does Bulimia Nervosa Cause Dental Issues?
Erosion of the tooth enamel can happen quite quickly when people with bulimia nervosa frequently engage in self-induced vomiting. It’s not unusual to see permanent damage to the exterior levels of enamel occur within 6 months of repeated purging. This period can be incredibly painful as the softer interior levels are exposed.
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. Beyond this point, it may become necessary to extract and replace damaged teeth with dentures. Although the pain can be intense, it’s also important to remember that these procedures are extremely expensive and time-consuming, making the need for early intervention even more important.
Complications Caused by Enamel Erosion
There are psychological risks centering around damaged teeth as well. As enamel erosion damages the enamel and stains them yellow or brown, self-confidence levels might drop and the person may begin to feel “ugly,” a common contributing factor in many eating disorders. This can exacerbate existing body image issues and trigger disordered thought patterns and behaviors. The person also may begin to socially isolate even more than before as their disorder becomes more difficult to hide.
The erosion of tooth enamel exposes nerves within the tooth, increasing sensitivity to hot and cold, especially liquids, increasing the risk of pain for many people. Tooth decay, erosion, and cavities can also make daily activities like eating, brushing the teeth, and flossing excruciating. If tooth maintenance is abandoned due to pain, the decay can easily accelerate.
All of these problems tend to continue to worsen over time unless steps are taken to slow or stop the decay – and the best way is to stop exposure to gastric acids caused by bulimia nervosa behaviors.
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.
If you or a loved one is dealing with a case of bulimia nervosa, remember not to lose hope. Many of the symptoms are easily diagnosable and the worst of the complications can be avoided by securing treatment early. Reach out to a trusted eating disorder treatment center, check out their programs, and speak to an admission specialist. They can help you secure a fully integrated eating disorder treatment program today.