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How Does Bulimia Affect the Teeth?

What’s Bulimia?

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that’s characterized by frequent episodes of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, or the use of laxatives.

This vicious cycle often leads to feelings of guilt and shame, tooth damage, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, digestive problems, and even anxiety.

Studies suggest that some factors that can cause bulimia include family history, sociocultural, and psychological factors. Luckily, bulimia can be treated with lifestyle changes, therapy, and medications.

5 Ways Bulimia Can Affect the Teeth

Bulimia can take a massive toll on the body – not just internally, but externally too. One of the external signs of bulimia is tooth damage. Damage done to the teeth can be significant and can ultimately require restorative work in order to make them look normal again. Below are some of the common effects of bulimia on the teeth.


When bulimia is present, the tooth enamel can be so severely worn away that it leads to cavities. These cavities result from acids and bile that are regurgitated due to bulimic behavior. If left untreated, bulimia-induced cavities will worsen and lead to much more serious oral health issues such as infection and tooth loss.

Tooth Sensitivity

When the tooth enamel erodes, the protective layer of the teeth will break down, leaving them more prone to sensitivity to sweets, hot and cold food or drinks.   

Puffy/Swollen Cheeks

Bulimic patients often experience one of the most noticeable tell-tale signs: puffy cheeks. This occurs when bulimic individuals induce vomiting, which can lead to inflammation of the salivary glands on the sides of each cheek, causing them to swell. The swelling should go down once bulimia is treated.

Dry Mouth

Salivary gland infections in bulimic patients not only cause the cheeks to swell but also reduce the body’s saliva production, leading to a dry mouth. A dry mouth will also change how the food tastes, increase the risk of tooth decay, and make existing tooth decay worse. 

Tooth Discoloration

The stomach acids in vomit that comes in contact with the teeth can cause them to change in appearance, such as becoming yellow or brown, brittle, or having a porous texture over time.

How Your Dentist Can Help

Dentists can play a critical role in helping those suffering from bulimia. Oftentimes, dentists are the first ones to spot the signs of eating disorders during a routine dental exam.

Dentists are also in an advantageous position to identify any changes that occur in oral health as bulimia progresses. Through regular check-ups, dentists have the opportunity to monitor these changes and discuss them with the patient so that bulimia can be addressed as soon as possible. However, while dentists can help treat dental problems caused by bulimia, the best solution would be to seek treatment for bulimia itself.

Treating bulimia usually involves a combination of approaches, including therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes. With the right combination of interventions and support from family and friends, bulimics can move on to have healthy and happy lives.

If you or someone you know might be struggling with bulimia, it’s important to seek help from trained professionals to prevent irreparable damage to the body. There are some useful resources with information about bulimia treatments, such as National Eating Disorders and Eating Disorder Hope.

Read also: What is Restorative Dentistry?

If your teeth have been affected by health issues, such as eating disorders, and you’re looking for a professional, caring dentist near you in Lafayette, LA, to restore their appearance, Maestri Family Dental has got your back!

We offer a wide range of restorative and cosmetic dentistry, including fillings, crowns, teeth whitening, bonding and contouring, veneers, and more. So take back control of your smile and schedule an appointment today!



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