The Unexpected Way Bulimia Can Affect Your Teeth

Bulimia is an eating disorder that is characterized by bingeing and purging. People with bulimia often eat large amounts of food in a short period of time and then purge by vomiting or using laxatives. This cycle can damage the teeth and gums because the repeated exposure to stomach acid can erode the enamel on the teeth (via Healthline). This can lead to tooth decay and sensitivity. The acids can also cause inflammation of the gums (gingivitis). Purging by vomiting can also strain the jaw and cause TMJ disorders.

Brushing your teeth and/or using mouthwash after purging will not stop this damage from happening, especially when it is done often for a long period of time. Bulimia can have a serious impact on oral health, as well as physical and emotional health. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, it's important to seek professional help. Treatment can help to improve oral health and prevent further damage.

What to know about bulimia

Bulimia nervosa, commonly called bulimia, is an eating disorder that involves episodes of bingeing and purging (via Mayo Clinic). Bingeing refers to eating a large amount of food in a short period of time, while purging means getting rid of the food, usually by vomiting or taking laxatives. People with bulimia may be at a normal weight, above normal weight, or below normal weight. Unlike anorexia nervosa, another type of eating disorder, people with bulimia are often not underweight.

The most common symptom of bulimia is engaging in bingeing and purging behaviors. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, other symptoms may include a preoccupation with food and weight, unhealthily restrictive eating, purging after eating small amounts of food, and hiding food to eat later in secret. Bulimia can have serious physical consequences, including electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, gastrointestinal problems, and tooth decay. The condition can also lead to heart problems and even death. Bulimia can also cause psychological distress and increase the risk of suicide. Bulimia is treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy can help people with bulimia identify the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to their condition. Medication, such as antidepressants, can also be helpful in treating bulimia.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).