How Bulimia damages your teeth

If you’ve ever asked the question, “can bulimia cause cavities?” then you should know that the answer is indisputably yes.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that even if you don’t purge by vomiting, bulimia can still have a really negative effect your teeth. This is because many people with bulimia suffer from nutritional deficiencies and these deficiencies contribute to the development of cavities, the loss of enamel and serious tooth decay.

In fact bulimia causes so much devastation that even after people have fully recovered they can still experience complications:

I had bulimia for over 10 years and from personal experience I can tell you it really does ruin your teeth. 89% of bulimics show some signs of tooth erosion from purging. I’m not proud of it but all my front teeth are false; they have all undergone root canal treatment and have all been replaced with porcelain crows. So far four teeth and counting have been pulled out as a result of bulimia. I have fully recovered from bulimia, but I’m unfortunately still suffering the consequences my bulimia eroded teeth.

Ali Kerr

What do bulimic teeth look like?

Bulimic teeth can appear worn, ragged, chipped, thinning and discoloured because when you purge by self induced vomiting powerful hydrochloric acid from your stomach washes over them. Over time this causes the protective layer of enamel to wear away.

While your body does try to protect you against tooth erosion by producing more saliva when you vomit, this is just not an effective defence if you’re purging on a regular basis.

Here are some pictures of the damage that can be done.

They are certainly not for the faint hearted, but unfortunately this is the reality for a lot of people:

How to protect your teeth from stomach acid erosion…

If you’ve ever had one of those,  “help, I think my teeth are rotting” moments, but still felt powerless to break free from the vicious cycle of bingeing and purging then there are some things that you can do to minimize the damage to your teeth from stomach acid.

  • Do not brush your teeth immediately after vomiting because this will cause further abrasion to your tooth enamel.
  • Rinse your mouth with water or a mixture of baking soda and water after vomiting. Baking soda helps because it neutralizes the acid in your mouth.
  • Floss and brush teeth at least twice a day to remove plaque.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste to reduce decay and tooth sensitivity.

Yet even if you were to take these precautions the truth is that bulimia nervosa causes tooth erosion and will continue to cause this erosion until you are able to dedicate yourself to recovery and stop purging.

All of the bulimia teeth tips in the world are still not enough to prevent most problems long-term and you will more than likely still experience a lot of pain and devastating damage to all parts of your mouth regardless of how careful you are.

Recovery really is the only way to stop any further damage and prevent the eruption of even more nasty and painful bulimia cavities.

How long before bulimia ruins my teeth?

How quickly bulimia causes tooth erosion and the rate at which the damage occurs will totally vary from person to person.

You should also bear in mind that It can often be difficult to notice damage and enamel loss at first because it usually occurs on the back of your teeth to start with.

I wish my dentist confronted me much earlier to make me realize the seriousness of bulimia on teeth. (Bulimia Help Member, 2011)

Reflecting on my own experience while I always knew about the effects that bulimia could have on teeth, I honestly thought I’d gotten away with causing any serious damage. I thought because I couldn’t really see anything wrong with my teeth that they were fine.

That was until I visited my dentist who told me that I had severe enamel loss due to bulimia. Even now that I have fully recovered, just like Ali and countless others I still have problems with my teeth and need to have a lot more dental work done.

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