Bulimia nervosa is an eating and psychiatric compulsive disorder characterised by a binge-purge cycle. Binge-eating episodes must occur at least twice a week for 3 months for bulimia nervosa to be diagnosed. Sufferers are usually in the normal weight range and control their weight by self-induced vomiting, periods of fasting, vigorous exercise and abuse of laxatives or diuretics.
14 out of 100,000 people suffer from bulimia nervosa, which primarily affects adolescent and young adult females. One third of those who suffer from bulimia nervosa have a history of anorexia nervosa, and one third of those who suffer from bulimia nervosa have a history of obesity.
Repeated episodes of self-induced vomiting can lead to enamel erosion of all teeth due to the exposure of teeth to stomach acid. Bulimia nervosa and its accompanying dry mouth can lead to a dramatic increase in cavities because of excessive carbohydrate intake during binge-eating. Typically, patients who suffer from bulimia nervosa have small, purplish-red lesions on their palate due to contact with objects used to induce vomiting. Silver fillings often become raised due to erosion of the teeth, and braces and temporary restorations may not stay on the teeth because the acid will dissolve the temporary cement used to keep these materials in place. Teeth may be discoloured or look dull from the acid.
If you have bulimia nervosa, avoid brushing your teeth after vomiting, and rinse with water instead. Use a basic rinse, such as baking soda and water, immediately after vomiting to neutralize the acid. Remove plaque by brushing and flossing properly. Chew sugarless gum to increase salivary flow or use an artificial saliva. Use fluoride either in toothpastes, rinses or gels to reduce sensitivity of teeth and build resistance to decay from acid.
Bulimia nervosa is a serious condition that can result in death. If you have this condition, or if you know someone who has it, seek medical help immediately. There are excellent treatment programs in place to help sufferers overcome this debilitating illness.