The mouth is not an island unto itself. Its appearance can be a cause, as well as an effect, of deeper emotional and physical problems.
A set of bright, straight teeth can lead to greater self-confidence, while a low self-esteem can result from crooked, misaligned teeth. Cosmetic dentistry has flourished for this reason: people want a more beautiful smile because they want to improve their self-perception and others’ perception of them.
Dental appearance can also be an effect. In the case of tooth erosion, it may be a sign of an eating disorder – specifically, bulimia.
How Bulimia causes erosion
Bulimia, characterised by food purging through self-induced vomiting, can have a serious impact on the teeth. Regular vomiting will bring stomach acid into the mouth that can interfere with the mineral content of the tooth enamel. Hence, more than 80% of bulimia patients have enamel erosion.
The pattern of erosion caused by bulimia may vary from that produced from drinking or eating too much acidic food. Bulimics are much more likely to have erosion on the upper front teeth, especially on the edges and tongue side.
Vomiting can also lead to ulceration of the soft tissues and swollen salivary glands. Worse, brushing the teeth after purging can cause the softened enamel to flush away.
Addressing bulimia-caused dental problems
You can treat dental symptoms either short-term or long-term. In the short term, the goal is to reduce the impact of stomach acid by avoiding post-purge brushing. It is better to wash with water and a little baking soda for the acid to buffer.
A sodium fluoride is also effective in strengthening and re-mineralising the enamel. On the other hand, the long-term solution requires the patient to seek professional help for their eating disorder.
Like any mental health problem, bulimia is challenging for the patients and their loved ones. Treating the condition with gentleness but purpose will start their journey toward another chance at healthy teeth and gums.