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14 February 2019

With eating disorders remaining a problem for many, we look at the impact that this illness can have on your teeth.

There is some debate as to whether social media is at least partially responsible for eating disorders, with teenagers especially, likely to compare the way they look with others.

There may also be groups online who actively promote problems like bulimia as a ‘healthy way of life’. Sadly, this is a battle that is likely to run for some time, but any family who has someone suffering from this will know how tragic the illness can be.

With Eating Disorders Awareness Week being from 25th February to the 3rd of March, we thought that now would be a good time to take a look at the potential oral health risks that this illness can cause.

What is bulimia?

It is worth reminding readers that bulimia is an illness that affects many people, although younger girls are one of the most severely affected groups. Often seeing themselves as overweight, even where they are quite the opposite, causes them to ‘binge eat’ before deliberately vomiting. As this often happens soon after eating, the body is unable to obtain the nutrition needed for good health. Long term bulimia can lead to serious general health issues and can even be fatal if not treated.

How does it affect your teeth?

Whilst the most important thing for any bulimia sufferer is to get help to overcome the illness, this can be a long road, and some of the problems that it creates happens over a period of time. This is also the case when it comes to the teeth of a bulimia sufferer.

There are two key ways in which this illness can affect the health of a patient’s teeth and gums.

Lack of nutrition

As with our bodies in general, our teeth and gums require certain vitamins and minerals in order to be strong and healthy. There are two factors here that often prevent this from happening in people with eating disorders. Firstly, the ‘binge eating’ often consists of foods that are low in these qualities. Cakes, crisps and chocolates are, commonly, the type of foods consumed. These offer realtively low nutritional value, and even without the vomiting, would struggle to provide sufficient nutrients for healthy teeth.

Even if high vitamin foods were consumed, the fact that it remains for only a short time in the stomach means that there is little time for digestion and retaining any nutritional benefits from the food. Without these important nutrients, the teeth are likely to be significantly weakened.

Enamel erosion

One of the most noticeable symptoms of a bulimic, is the poor state of their teeth. This is because, when the sufferer vomits, not only food, but also stomach acids pass over the teeth. This is a very powerful acid which can erode the enamel of the teeth quite quickly. With the vomiting happening on a regular basis, and with already poor teeth, they really do stand little or no chance of remaining healthy.

Unfortunately, until the illness has been overcome, there is little, as dentists, that we can do to help the patient, although we are still able to treat for decay etc. We can though, help to restore the damaged teeth following the patient’s recovery.

Restoring your mouth

As self esteem is often a factor in those with eating disorders, having a set of poor quality teeth does not exactly help. Your Surbiton cosmetic dentists are able to help restore your teeth to a healthy and attractive state. The treatments used will depend on the degree of damage that has been caused. Where the damage is not too great, it may be possible to use a combination of fillings, crowns and veneers to restore the teeth. Where the damage is too great though, it may be necessary to extract the teeth and replace them using either cosmetic dentures or dental implants.

We hope that anyone who is suffering from this illness seeks the professional help that they need. Once recovered, please do get in touch with us and allow us to help you to rebuild your smile again.

You can contact the Confidental Clinic in Surbiton by calling us on 020 8399 1291.

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