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Bulimia Causes Widespread Dental Problems
April 10, 2014

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - Nearly all women with bulimia have dental problems, and most do not talk about their condition with a dentist, a study has found.

Researchers from Northwestern University surveyed about 200 adult women with bulimia. This is an eating disorder in which a person eats large amounts of food and then vomits on purpose. Frequent vomiting can lead to worn tooth enamel, mouth sores and other oral problems.

About 92% of the women surveyed said they had dental problems. And nearly all of them were concerned about how bulimia might affect their mouths. But only 29% of the women had talked with a dentist about it.

Also, nearly 33% of the women brushed their teeth after vomiting, which is not recommended. This can spread stomach acids over the teeth. Instead, the American Dental Association suggests rinsing with baking soda. This neutralizes the acids.

An estimated 10 million Americans have a serious eating disorder, such as bulimia or anorexia. The conditions affect nearly every aspect of life, including dental health. Nearly 9 of every 10 people with bulimia will show signs of worn-down tooth enamel. Over time, teeth can change color and shape. They also can become brittle and sensitive to hot or cold. Many people with bulimia also have dry mouth. This can increase the risk of tooth decay.

The authors of the study suggest education for dental professionals about how to talk to patients who appear to have an eating disorder. Some of these patients are children or teenagers. The authors also recommend the development of policies and guidelines for notifying parents in such cases.

The study appears in the April issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

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