By Susan Braden
Bulimia nervosa, estimated to be present in 5% to even 40% of collegiate females, as well as in other population segments, is a severe health condition on the rise in the United States. This eating disorder may not only affect your general healthiness and livelihood, but also may inflict serious oral problems. If you are currently experimenting with bulimia, it is important to consider its health risks and the permanent damage it may cause to your long-term lifestyle. Knowledge of the following health effects, along with the treatments available for patients with bulimia, may help you attain the best oral health for yourself and your loved ones.
Bulimia nervosa, commonly shortened to “bulimia,” is an eating disorder in which an individual engages in vomiting, usually after binging on an inordinate amount of food. This behavior typically results from poor body image, and it can culminate in related substance abuse, depression, anxiety disorders, severe malnutrition, and even death.
This eating disorder may result in severe, less than affordable dental problems. Bulimia initially causes enamel erosion – the act of purging washes the interior of your upper front teeth in stomach acid, greatly wearing down their protective enamel coating. Purging results in significant reduction in the chewing surfaces of your back molars, changes in bite due to loss of tooth structure, nerve exposure in teeth, increased sensitivity to extreme temperatures, numerous cavities, and nerve infection. While it can take 2-3 years for significant damage to appear, each act of purging erodes a percentage of enamel, making it more difficult to protect your teeth from infection and other damage despite affordable dental preventative care. Malnutrition and dehydration from this eating disorder also cause gum damage with reduced ability to heal, and it can increase risk of periodontal disease.
Bulimia also causes problems in other tissues inside the mouth. The salivary glands, particularly those in your cheeks, can become swollen due to frequent vomiting. Bulimics may also experience dry mouth due to the abuse of laxatives or due to the dehydration from vomiting. Vomiting may also injure the sensitive soft palate at the top of the mouth.
If you or someone you love are caught in a bulimic lifestyle, there are several treatment options available to receive help. You should first consider consulting a licensed counselor or psychiatrist to help with the psychiatric issues central to bulimia. A nutritionist can construct you a healthy diet and exercise routine for profitable weight loss. Your dentist will also be able to help with the adverse, less than affordable dental effects bulimia inflicts on your teeth. Such treatments include a professional cleaning with the hygienist, in-office fluoride treatment, at-home fluoride gel to brush with, daily fluoride rinse (containing at least 0.5% fluoride), and brushing and flossing several times a day. Your dentist may also prescribe artificial saliva to aid dry mouth and swollen glands, and may recommend an affordable dental plan or insurance to cut the cost of treatment.
Since this disorder tends to require a progressive transition out of actively-induced vomiting, you should be aware of several oral treatments to build into your routine during the recovery process. First, do not brush your teeth immediately after purging. In that moment the stomach acid is eroding your enamel, and brushing immediately will only further the erosion. Instead, rinse your mouth with water to balance out this acid – you may even want to mix baking soda into the water. You may also consider using a desensitizing toothpaste to eliminate some dental pain, especially when your teeth come in contact with hot or cold substances. Finally, schedule an appointment with your dentist to assess your oral health index and necessity for any available affordable dental care. If you have incurred significant enamel loss, know that the dentist will need to wait until you are no longer purging before he or she can repair dental damage or aesthetically treat your teeth.
As incidences of this disorder rise in the United States and worldwide, knowing the facts can greatly aid in both bulimia prevention and helping those already caught in its net. Thankfully, treatment for the resultant health effects is easily accessible and ranges from home remedies to affordable dental care and professional aid. If you or a loved one has entered into a bulimic lifestyle, you can take steps to help curb the effects of the disorder and find healing. Delaying action only increases the chances of lifelong consequences, so remember that the time to choose recovery is now.