Bulimia – also known as bulimia nervosa – is an eating disorder that makes people want to control their weight by severely restricting the quantity of food they eat. This is followed by episodes of binge eating and, then, expelling all the food by either forcing vomiting or using laxatives – substances that help in emptying the bowels.1
This disorder can spell immense trouble for someone who suffers from it because it affects him or her not only physically but also emotionally and mentally. It severely damages the digestive system in areas like the stomach and esophagus. Not just that, it also worsens oral health, causing damage to the mouth and teeth.
Wondering how? Here are a few ways bulimia damages your oral health.
How Bulimia Affects Your Oral Health
1. Dental Cavities, Decay, And Bleeding Gums
Because a person suffering from bulimia is constantly inducing vomiting, the teeth are frequently exposed to digestive acids. While these acids break food down in the stomach, they are detrimental to oral health. They corrode the outer layer of the teeth called the enamel, resulting in dental cavities.2
Consuming a lot of sugary foods and sodas while binge eating due to bulimia may also result in tooth decay. This, in turn, could cause your gums to bleed in extreme cases.
2. Tooth Sensitivity
When the enamel of your teeth is corroded by digestive acids due to bulimia, it leaves the inner layers of the teeth exposed. This makes them extremely sensitive, causing pain whenever you eat something – especially if it’s very hot or very cold.
3. Discolored, Brittle Teeth
If you suffer from bulimia, the constant exposure of your mouth to digestive acids could turn your once white teeth yellow or give them a glassy appearance. Your teeth may also become quite weak and brittle, making them more susceptible to chipping and breakage.
4. Enlarged Salivary Glands
The acid in your vomit may irritate your salivary glands – the glands present on the sides of your cheeks that produce saliva – enough to make them swell.3 This swelling in your salivary glands becomes visible as swelling around your jaw and decreases the production of saliva, making eating and swallowing quite painful and difficult.
While the oral damage caused by bulimia is usually irreversible, the salivary gland swelling reduces with reduced vomiting in bulimic patients.
5. Dry Mouth
If you have swollen salivary glands due to bulimia, chances are there isn’t enough saliva being produced. This is likely to result in a dry mouth. And because saliva gets rid of bacteria and protects your teeth from decaying, reduced production of saliva could cause damage to your teeth and increase existing damage.
6. Mouth And Throat Sores
If you’re bulimic, digestive acids in your vomit not only corrode your teeth but also the insides of your mouth and throat. The corrosion could result in sores in your mouth and throat. In extreme cases, these sores could also become infected and cause intense discomfort while eating and swallowing.
Temporary Solutions For Treating Oral Damage Caused By Bulimia
- After an episode of induced vomiting due to bulimia, it’s best to avoid brushing your teeth immediately. Because the stomach acid weakens the enamel, brushing could accelerate its corrosion. Instead, you could rinse your mouth with baking soda in water.
- If you have a dry mouth, drink sufficient water to hydrate and moisten it.
While it’s possible to temporarily treat oral problems caused by bulimia, it’s essential to see your doctor if you notice any signs of being bulimic. Treating the root cause of the problem causing the dental issues is ideal for long-term health benefits.