Bulimia's Toll on the Teeth

Bulimia cases tooth decayDentist's often have a role to play in the early identification of bulimia, ealry identification is a key feature in recovery, but only if individuals take this a step further and get the treatment they need.

The eating disorder known as bulimia nervosa affects around one in fifty women and can be detrimental to the health in a number of ways. Bulimia disrupts the regulation of food intake and causes periods of excessive overeating (or bingeing) followed by extreme starvation. It is common for sufferers to induce vomiting or take laxatives in order to rid themselves of the consumed calories. The secrecy and shame invoked by such behaviours can cause psychological damage, but there's also another complication that is rarely explored.

In the case of purging, the harm bulimia causes to an individual’s teeth and gums can be irreversible. When the mouth is exposed to gastric acids for prolonged periods of time, physical problems such as tooth decay and discolouration, swollen saliva glands, gum disease and bad breath occur. If untreated, bulimia sufferers can lose whole teeth and damage entire sections of gum.

Often, it is a dentist who notices the first signs of bulimia. Recent surveys of dentists and dental hygienists have shown that around twenty percent of suspected eating disorders are never discussed with the patient, and those that are get referred to family physicians rather than to dedicated eating disorder clinics. Because the warning signs can go unheeded for so long, many sufferers reach extreme levels of sickness before appropriate help is sought.

To reduce the risk of serious dental complications for those who are unable to completely refrain from vomiting, the Eating Disorders Association recommends brushing with fluoridated toothpaste after each meal. Some dentists recommend using fluoride applications to directly treat tooth damage.  If enamel has already eroded, resins or crowns can be used to protect the inner dentine of the tooth from acid.

Most importantly, anyone suffering from bulimia must seek help for the underlying issue before oral health can be completely restored.  Seeking the advice of a dedicated eating disorder clinic may be the most effective way of overcoming this long-term affliction.  There are also numerous self-help programs and support groups set up to assist bulimia sufferers.  In some cases, drugs can be prescribed to raise serotonin levels and counter depression, but this is only a short-term option. To effectively counter bulimia, talking treatments and cognitive behavioural therapy are often used to relearn healthy eating habits and self-image. The road to recovery will require dedication and ongoing support if bulimia is to be conquered once and for all.Bulimia treatment is effective and readily available at Life Works.

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