If you are struggling with an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia, please don’t be embarrassed to talk to us. Everything you say is completely confidential. Your privacy is of the utmost importance. We are here to help you understand how your dental health is affected by eating disorders, and how to combat the dental problems that occur because of under eating or bingeing and purging. Dr. Smith and her compassionate professional staff at our Boston dentist office conveniently located in the Financial District will ensure your comfort in working with us to achieve not only your maximum dental health but also your overall wellness.
Dental Care for Bulimia
It is well known that bulimia is associated with dental problems. The classic oral manifestation of bulimia is erosion on the smooth outer surface (enamel) of the upper, front inside surfaces of their teeth. This tooth erosion often occurs after one to two years of binging and purging, as hydrochloric acid from the stomach is exposed to the mouth during the purge and will eventually affect the back teeth as well. Dental signs of bulimia such as decreased saliva production will weaken the body’s natural defense against dental erosion caused by bacteria in dental plaques and can lead to tooth decay. At Dental Health and Wellness Boston, we can help patients care for their teeth by giving advice and strategies to protect the teeth when necessary restore the damage this illness has had on the teeth over the years. When needed we can refer our patients to Boston’s best mental health professionals that specialize in eating disorders.
Understanding Bulimia’s Effects on Oral Health
The severity of dental problems induced by bulimia decreases with good oral hygiene habits and increases with the frequency and degree of vomiting. Common symptoms of bulimia that are detected in routine dental examinations include:
- Tooth Erosion -Teeth affected by bulimia will have a smooth glassy appearance void of stains or lines. If the back teeth are affected there is often a loss of the biting surfaces of these teeth and they become highly susceptible to decay and more serious infections of the nerves within these teeth. Stages of advanced tooth erosion can lead to damage in the root of the tooth as well as eventual temperature sensitivity.
- Dry Mouth: Dry mouth is known as xerostomia, and it is an uncomfortable condition that can be caused by a number of factors associated with bulimia, including abuse of laxatives, diuretics and dehydration from fasting and vomiting. Dry Mouth is indicated by a decrease in production of saliva.
- Dental Problems Resulting from Decreased Saliva Production: Lack of saliva leads to gum disease, tooth decay, and an uncomfortable condition called burning mouth syndrome. Saliva cleans the mouth constantly. As it circulates through the mouth, it clears food debris that may act as a food supply for the bacteria in plaque. Therefore, with dry mouth, the decreased levels of saliva make way for increased bacterial infection, which can lead to a host of dental problems. Saliva also reduces the pH (acidity) of dental plaque waste products, which help limit tooth decay induced by the plaque.
- Visible Symptoms: Tissues in the mouth can become irritated and traumatized by bulimia. Symptoms such as redness of the throat and roof of mouth (palate), reddened cracked lips and enlarged parotid salivary glands are often observed.
How We Can Help
Dr. Smith and her compassionate dental team have helped many people like you or your loved ones receive the dental support that is needed to preserve oral health through this challenging disorder. The following treatments and products may be helpful.
Dental Health and Wellness Boston recommends using a fluoride mouthwash or fluoride application to help counter the affects the acid and erosion has had on your teeth. In many cases custom trays are made to hold the fluoride and make the treatment more concentrated and effective.
A revolutionary new product to facilitate oral health for bulimic patients is M.I. Paste Plus. This toothpaste actually remineralizes and strengthens tooth enamel and is prescribed for maximum protection.
Recommendations for Those Struggling with Bulimia
To reduce the chances of enamel erosion and gum disease for those who have not yet been able to completely stop vomiting, Dr. Smith advises patients to rinse with sodium bicarbonate to lower or neutralize the acid in the mouth right away after purging. It is now advised not to brush your teeth right after purging as it may cause increased damage.
Restoration of eroded teeth will be recommended if you have lost the protective enamel covering of your teeth in order to cover the exposed dentine, or inner portion of the tooth. Options such as composite resins, onlays or crowns will be discussed to replace the lost tooth structure and the teeth from future acid if the eating disorder was to persist.
A New Beginning
For so many just like you, restoration of your teeth with Dr. Smith at Dental Health and Wellness Boston symbolizes so much more than replacing lost tooth structure. Your healthy new smile represents to you and the world a healthy start on your path to healing for your health, your looks and your life.