After suffering from bulimia for 12 years, I wonder whether my teeth are ruined. I am healing emotionally after two years of counseling, but my teeth are damaged severely. My teeth are dark, chipped, and mostly rotten. I want to smile because I have overcome bulimia, but my teeth look horrible.
I also have some jaw swelling and pain. Sometimes, I get headaches that I think are related to my teeth. I have not been to a dentist in more than five years because I felt scolded about the effects of bulimia on my teeth at my last visit. I think my dentist cared more about how my teeth looked than how I was feeling. Is there any treatment that will help my thin, dark teeth, or are dentures my only option? Thank you. Cheyenne
Thank you for your question. Congratulations on your recovery. We understand your concerns about your teeth because you have more reasons to smile now.
Although Dr. LeSage would need to examine your teeth and gums and take x-rays to determine how to restore your teeth, you can get your smile back.
How Does Bulimia Affect Your Teeth?
Bulimia affects your teeth because repeated vomiting wears on your tooth structure and weakens gum tissue that supports the teeth. A British Dental Journal article on the effects of bulimia on teeth notes the impact:
- Teeth lose their characteristics and become rounded, smooth, and shiny.
- Teeth edges appear translucent.
- Dents form in the tooth enamel and dentin (the layer beneath the enamel).
- Lesions develop in the area between the tooth crown and root.
How Does Bulimia Affect Your Gums?
When you have bulimia, vomiting exposes the gum tissue to stomach acid. Eventually, your gums become irritated and swollen. Gingivitis, or early-stage gum disease, may develop. And if left untreated, gum disease will advance. Also, the National Eating Disorders Association confirms that your gum tissue can bleed easily without adequate nutrition.
How to Treat Dark and Worn Teeth from Bulimia
If your teeth are dark, chipped, or decayed from bulimia, an expert cosmetic dentist can restore them with a full-mouth reconstruction. After determining the condition of each tooth and surrounding tissue, a dentist will develop a treatment plan.
Treatment Options for Teeth Damaged by Bulimia
If you have experienced severe tooth damage from bulimia, a dentist can restore your teeth with implants, porcelain onlays, crowns, or other treatments. Your cosmetic dentist will restore your tooth function and oral health and give you a beautiful smile.
When a tooth has enough healthy structure left, a skilled cosmetic dentist may use a custom porcelain onlay to preserve it. An onlay covers one or more biting surfaces of a tooth’s crown to restore function and appearance.
Dental crowns cover an entire tooth damaged by bulimia. A dentist cements crowns to natural teeth after shaving the teeth down. However, your teeth may require preparation to build up and stabilize them if you only have limited tooth structure left. Afterward, your teeth can support dental crowns.
Although the goal is to save teeth whenever possible, a skilled cosmetic dentist will remove unsavable teeth and replace them with dental implants. A dental implant replaces a tooth’s entire structure from the root up. Each replacement tooth will appear to emerge from your gums. And your jawbone is the foundation for implants so that the results will last for decades, if not a lifetime.
Headaches and Jaw Issues from Bulimia
A TMJ disorder may be causing your headaches if your bite is off. Selecting a cosmetic dentist with advanced occlusion and bite training can restore your bite to its normal state.
Your swollen jaw may be a result of gum disease or an infection. But TMJ may be aggravating your jaw symptoms. Your new dentist will uncover the cause and explain how to treat it.
Request a Consultation with an Accredited Cosmetic Dentist
We recommend requesting a consultation with an accredited cosmetic dentist to discuss how to restore your teeth from the effects of bulimia. An accredited dentist has proven experience in treating various cases of tooth restoration and will understand how to personalize a treatment plan for you. If it makes you more comfortable, you may find two accredited dentists for consultations to compare your options and how you like each dentist.
Please do not hesitate to drive a distance or travel to get the dental care you need if your budget allows you to do so.
How to prepare for a consultation:
- Prepare questions
- Discuss your concerns
- Ask about sedation options to help you relax during treatment
- Ask to see before-and-after photos of patient cases like yours
- Take notes
Your smile makeover will allow you to express your personality and joy over recovery. Best wishes for a healthy smile that you will love.
Dr. Brian LeSage, a Beverly Hills accredited cosmetic dentist, sponsors this post. Dr. Lesage is an accredited Fellow of cosmetic dentistry with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and the American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry.