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Effects of Bulimic Behavior on Dental Health

The frequent vomiting and nutritional deficiencies that often accompany eating disorders can have severe consequences on one’s oral health. Studies have found that up to 89% of bulimic patients show signs of tooth erosion.

Surprisingly enough,it is often the pain and discomfort related to dental complications that first causes patients to consult with a health professional. Dental hygienists and dentists are often the first health professionals to observe signs and symptoms of disordered eating habits.

However, recent studies cite two deterrents to dental practitioners addressing eating concerns with their patients:

Lack of knowledge of the scope and severity of eating disorders, and
Lack of comfort in discussing their concerns or suspicions.
In spite of these deterrents, the role of dental practitioners in early detection, identification, and intervention is crucial.

Signs and Symptoms

Loss of tissue and erosive lesions on the surface of teeth due to the effects of acid. These lesions can appear as early as 6 months from the start of the problem.
Changes in the color, shape, and length of teeth. Teeth can become brittle, translucent, and weak.
Increased sensitivity to temperature. In extreme cases the pulp can be exposed and cause infection, discoloration, or even pulp death.
Enlargement of the salivary glands, dry mouth, and reddened, dry, cracked lips.
Tooth decay, which can actually be aggravated by extensive tooth brushing or rinsing following vomiting.
Unprovoked, spontaneous pain within a particular tooth.
Changes in the mouth are often the first physical signs of an eating disorder.