Dental Problems Caused By Bulimia

Article Contributed by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC and Founder of Eating Disorder Hope and Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC

Girl happy there is no dental damage due to bulimiaThe effects of bulimia are detrimental and range from physical, emotional, psychological, social, financial, and more.

In comparison to anorexia, the physical effects of bulimia may not be as prominent or obvious.

Individuals can suffer from bulimia regardless of their weight or stature and can perhaps, conceal their struggle for a longer period of time due to this.

Dental Damage Is a Common Side Effect

One of the more detrimental and common side effects of bulimia involves dental damage. The negative ways in which teeth are impacted by bulimia is often overshadowed by other major health consequences, such as cardiovascular complications, electrolyte imbalances, gastrointestinal distress, and bone loss.

However, when a person with bulimia engages in the repeated act of self-induced vomiting, teeth are subjected to continual exposure of acid from the stomach. Chronic purging and the resulting presence of hydrochloric acid in the mouth can produce many dental conditions and symptoms, including the following:

  • Dry mouth
  • Enamel erosion on teeth
  • Dental caries or an increased susceptibility to cavity development
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Hoarse voice
  • Painful or bleeding gums
  • Difficulty or pain in swallowing
  • Soft palate damage
  • Salivary gland enlargement
  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased saliva production
  • Abnormalities with jaw alignment
  • Broken, cracked, or missing teeth
  • Chewing difficulties
  • Reversal of previous dental work
  • Esophageal damage

A Diagnosis By Dentist

Dentist working on bulimia dental damageWhile teeth may not seem to be the first indicator of an eating disorder, many individuals are diagnosed by their dentists, who often are the initial responder to the dental symptoms arising from bulimia.

Dental practitioners can be an instrumental health professional in identifying the early signs of bulimia, which are often displayed in a person’s mouth and in the condition of their teeth.

In some instances, an individual can live with bulimia for years before receiving help or being officially diagnosed with this mental health disorder.

Dental Problems Can Be a Huge Problem

The resulting damage to the mouth and teeth can often be the first telling sign of a chronic eating disorder. The quality of life that a person suffering from bulimia will have can be severely hampered with dental/oral disorders.

Many may find it difficult or painful to chew or swallow, while some may suffer from broken or missing teeth. Untreated cavities could lead to more serious health conditions, and bleeding gums could be reflective of periodontal disease.

The Underlying Cause Needs to Be Treated

Deciduous_teeth_2004_05While the short-term solution may be to treat the dental conditions that are present, such as filling cavities, repairing broken teeth, caring for gums, etc; the long-term solution is to seek the appropriate treatment that is needed for bulimia.

Dental disorders are serious issues that must be cared for by an appropriate specialist, but the repairs can only go so far if a person continues to purge on a regular basis.

If you or a loved one has suffered from dental complications as a result of bulimia, you likely understand the shame experienced in your struggle.

Perhaps you have endured a compromised ability to eat or enjoy food, or have felt self-conscious about smiling or laughing.

It is important to know that there is hope and healing, not just for your teeth, but for your whole self. Restoration can truly occur from the inside out as you seek the resources you need to heal from bulimia.

Bulimia Can Be Treated

Bulimia is indeed a severe psychiatric illness that can impact your life, individuality, security, and self-esteem in ways you never thought possible. It can feel overwhelming to know how your recovery journey might unfold or how your body might be restored from the damage of bulimia.

The beauty of recovery is that it progresses day by day, as you become strengthened apart from the eating disorder.

Talk with Professionals to Get Help

Talk with your dentist about your dental concerns, and take the step towards receiving comprehensive treatment for bulimia recovery. While restorative dental work will certainly be a step of healing from bulimia, you can effectively address the heart of the eating disorder by obtaining complete care for your body and mind as well.

This will involve the collaborative work of a medical physician, therapist, dietitian, and psychiatrist, who can work together to ensure that you are recovering fully from bulimia nervosa.

Page Last Reviewed and Updated By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on February 11, 2018
Published on, Resources, Help & Assistance for Eating Disorders