How Bulimia destroyed my teeth

Many people who suffer from bulimia nervosa are often concerned about their teeth.
I am not one for scare tactics; but it’s true, from first-hand experience, bulimia can wreck your teeth and your health.

I want to share my nightmare I went through regarding how bulimia damage my teeth. I am not trying to imply that the extent of the damage I detail here will happen to you. I simply want to highlight the potential threat acid erosion can have on your health and teeth.

My bulimic teeth nightmare started pretty early and I am still having work done now to the horrendous amount of work done to undo the damage caused by acid erosion

So here it is, my bulimic teeth dental history:

I have tried my best to be as accurate as I can. I have drawn up a timeline to show the extent of the damage and I have included a diagram at the top to show what teeth I am talking about. I have also included the cost of the treatment.

So lets get into the nitty, gritty details:

1995 – Age 13

I have perfectly straight white teeth and often get lovely comments on how nice they are. Not for long! I have already developed an abscess and need immediate root canal treatment for my front tooth. This was after purging several times over a few months. Acid erosion from occasional purge episodes was enough to cause damage.

Cost: Dental treatment is free if you are under 18 and living in the UK.

1999 – Age 17

By 1999 things started to get worse. I was vomiting more.  Another abscess appeared; I needed root canal treatment in my other front tooth. Then, six months later… the tooth beside that went, and more root canal treatment was performed. So, by the age of 18, three of my top teeth (7, 8, & 9) have had root canal treatment and many fillings are in place in the surrounding teeth.

2001 – Age 19

I am now in my second year at University. I make my regular check up with the dentist. I am informed that my front teeth (8&9) will now need porcelain crowns. I’m sure my dentist knew I was bulimic, but it was never mentioned. I was quite badly bulimic at this point and was vomiting up to seven times a day.

(A porcelain crown is placed over a tooth when a cavity is very large or the tooth has been weakened in some way. In my case, acid erosion had left my front teeth very thin and week, without crowns they would have probably cracked.  At the same time I had root canal treatment done in my lower back molar (19) and a few filings here and there).

Average cost: $2,500.00  – luckily I was a student and got funding for this.

2004 – Age 22

My back molar on the left hand side (30) shattered, this was then extracted.  Six months later a bridge was made, (29, 30 & 31: bridge).

Cost averaging around $1,200.00

2005 – Age 23

2005 is probably the worst year for me regarding dental treatment. I had chronic infection in my upper molar (number 13). Root canal treatment was performed and failed! The tooth was then extracted.

Then five of my teeth were root canalled over the following months and porcelain crowns were placed over them (number: 4, 5, 12, 13 and number 10 are now porcelain crowns). So, all that is left of my own front teeth are a few at the back and number 6 & 11 on the front.

Cost averaging $1,900.00

Unfortunately the dentist I was seeing was not particularly great.  If you are getting dental work done, make sure you trust your dentist can carry out proper root canal treatment and build proper crowns. Ask around! I reckon this batch of dental treatment was rushed. We were leaving to go travelling and were migrating to Australia. So the dentist rushed getting the job done before we left.

I was very angry, as every tooth this dentist worked on turned out to be a case of bad dental work. The front crown fell out within a month (number 10); this was when we were in Laos on a jungle trek (how embarrassing)!

When we arrived in Australia, just three months after the dental work was completed, I was told that all of the work that was performed was faulty and would need fixed in the near future. 12 & 13 were extracted.

A long bridge was put in place spreading across four teeth on the left hand side of my mouth. The front one that fell out in Laos would cause a lot more problems for me. The other two crowns 4 & 5 are still in.  I have been told they will eventually cause problems and will have to be pulled down the line.

To correct some of this batch of bad dentistry cost $4,500.00!

2009 – Age 27

I fell pregnant in January 2009. This was when that front crown (that fell out in Laos and was fixed back in place) started playing up. I could feel infection brewing there and had to take a repeat prescription of antibiotics. It would have been hard to treat this tooth being pregnant.

2010 – Age 28

After my son was born, I visited the dentist to fix the front crown that was giving me so much bother. When root canal treatment fails, which can happen, instead of removing the tooth a procedure called an apicoectomy can be carried out. It involves the surgical removal of the root’s tip. A small filling is then used to seal the root. This is expensive, I was quoted $5000.

Someone informed me to go to Bali as it was a lot cheaper, so this is what I done. I have heard mixed reviews about dental work being done in Bali. To be honest I wouldn’t go back, I found it quite traumatic. The dentist drilled a large hole through the bone above the tooth and drained the infection. The hole was then filled with bone graft and stitched back up. Not pleasant, especially when you are given a mirror so you can watch, horrific! The dentist fixed the problem for a while!

This cost $350.00 (plus plane tickets of $900.00). It would have cost $5,000 if I had it done in Australia.

We moved back to the UK at the end of 2010 for a year.

My abscess came back – yes I am still talking about the same tooth here, the same tooth that was root canalled the same tooth that was crowned by my butcher dentist, the same crowned tooth that fell out in the Laos jungle and the same crowned tooth that took me to Bali.

At the end of 2010 I knew I had to get it fixed once and for all! Due to bad dental work I had done in the past I made a real effort to seek out a good dentist. I tracked down my dentist in Belfast who performed the work of my front two crowns 10 years ago.

2011 – Age 29

The tooth was finally pulled! Hallelujah.  I had to wear a denture for months! Not nice, especially when you are still in your 20s! But, I was pleased to have got rid of that tooth. I started to feel better for the first time in years. The story does not end here. The dentist made a mistake of crowning the tooth beside it. Due to the extent of dental work I have had done, this tooth should not have been invaded the way it was. Another type of bridge should have been used instead.

Cost for dental work $1,300.00

After two months… guess what? I got an abscess (tooth number 11). At this point we had left the UK and we were touring the states. I was devastated. After getting rid of tooth number 10, now 11 had an abscess!

When I returned to Australia, I was told the cost to fix this would be $3000. Root canal treatment would need to be performed and a new bridge is needed. I was told my nice new bridge that cost a fortune had to come out – it had only just been done!

Cost for dental work: $3,000.00

Now luckily my dentist in the UK paid for this as compensation for the mess up. I am currently getting the second batch of root canal treatment done at the moment.

In Summary

Total Cost of dental work so far: $15,650.00

This is the fist time I have actually added up the cost of treatment and to be honest even I’m a little surprised at how much it has cost me.

Here is a diagram of all the teeth that have been crowned i.e these are not my real teeth and have been replaced by porcelain crowns.

Watch this space folks; until all my teeth are actually removed,  I believe I will have continual work carried out for many years to come. I reckon I should become a dentist!

It’s also important to mention that despite recovering from Bulimia, dental issues can still linger. I remember one dentist informing me that once you have had major dental work done a ‘domino effect’ can then take place – meaning more and more work will have to be carried out.

Years after making a full recovery I still have ongoing expensive dental visits. I am haunted by my past. All of this had a huge impact on my health and I still live with problems today.

My advice: Please, start your recovery. The longer you are bulimic the more damage you will do to your precious teeth and your health.

There is a way out of this nightmare. I was bulimic for 10 years and never thought it was possible to stop, it is possible! I have never looked back and have never felt the need to binge and purge since. Win back your freedom.

If you are concerned about your teeth please visit your dentist as soon as possible, it’s best to get it sorted out now before the problem gets worse.

You can learn some tips to prevent bulimia teeth damage here.

Best of luck
Ali x