Bulimia teeth damage: What you need to know and how to stop it

Catherine Liberty's picture

Rotting teeth due to vomiting is a big topic of discussion here at Bulimia Help and it’s not really surprising that a lot of people are very worried about the effects of bulimia on their teeth.

If you’ve ever asked the question, “can bulimia cause cavities?” then you should know that the answer is indisputably yes.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that even if you don’t purge by vomiting, bulimia can still have a really negative effect your teeth. This is because many people with bulimia suffer from nutritional deficiencies and these deficiencies contribute to the development of cavities, the loss of enamel and serious tooth decay.

In fact bulimia causes so much devastation that even after people have fully recovered they can still experience complications:

I had bulimia for over 10 years and from personal experience I can tell you it really does ruin your teeth. 89% of bulimics show some signs of tooth erosion from purging. I'm not proud of it but all my front teeth are false; they have all undergone root canal treatment and have all been replaced with porcelain crows. So far four teeth and counting have been pulled out as a result of bulimia. I have fully recovered from bulimia, but I'm unfortunately still suffering the consequences my bulimia eroded teeth.

Ali Kerr (Bulimia Help co-founder)


What do bulimic teeth look like?

Bulimic teeth can appear worn, ragged, chipped, thinning and discoloured because when you purge by self induced vomiting powerful hydrochloric acid from your stomach washes over them. Over time this causes the protective layer of enamel to wear away.

While your body does try to protect you against tooth erosion by producing more saliva when you vomit, this is just not an effective defence if you’re purging on a regular basis. 

Here are some pictures of the damage that can be done.

They are certainly not for the faint hearted, but unfortunately this is the reality for a lot of people:

Bulimia Teeth

How to protect your teeth from stomach acid erosion…

If you’ve ever had one of those,  “help, I think my teeth are rotting” moments, but still felt powerless to break free from the vicious cycle of bingeing and purging then there are some things that you can do to minimize the damage to your teeth from stomach acid.

  • Do not brush your teeth immediately after vomiting because this will cause further abrasion to your tooth enamel.
  • Rinse your mouth with water or a mixture of baking soda and water after vomiting. Baking soda helps because it neutralizes the acid in your mouth.
  • Floss and brush teeth at least twice a day to remove plaque.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste to reduce decay and tooth sensitivity.

Yet even if you were to take these precautions the truth is that bulimia nervosa causes tooth erosion and will continue to cause this erosion until you are able to dedicate yourself to recovery and stop purging.

All of the bulimia teeth tips in the world are still not enough to prevent most problems long-term and you will more than likely still experience a lot of pain and devastating damage to all parts of your mouth regardless of how careful you are.

Recovery really is the only way to stop any further damage and prevent the eruption of even more nasty and painful bulimia cavities.

How long before bulimia ruins my teeth?

How quickly bulimia causes tooth erosion and the rate at which the damage occurs will totally vary from person to person.

You should also bear in mind that It can often be difficult to notice damage and enamel loss at first because it usually occurs on the back of your teeth to start with.

I wish my dentist confronted me much earlier to make me realise the seriousness of bulimia on teeth. (Bulimia Help Member, 2011)

Reflecting on my own experience while I always knew about the effects that bulimia could have on teeth, I honestly thought I’d gotten away with causing any serious damage. I thought because I couldn’t really see anything wrong with my teeth that they were fine.

That was until I visited my dentist who told me that I had severe enamel loss due to bulimia. Even now that I have fully recovered, just like Ali and countless others I still have problems with my teeth and need to have a lot more dental work done.

If you are worried about the damage bulimia is causing to your teeth we recommend you sign up to our Free Bulimia Recovery Ecourse. The sooner you start recovery the less damage you will do to your teeth.


Anonymous's picture
I am 5 months pregnant and

I am 5 months pregnant and still throw up most mornings. Unfortunately, because I have nothing in my stomach, I tend to throw up my own stomach acid, which is a disgusting combination of bitter deep yellow fluid. I usually throw up after I have brushed my teeth, the taste of the toothpaste triggers it off, but I rinse as much as I can. Still, I am terrified of the effect this is having on my teeth, (not to mentioning my hair fall) as they are already stained and look yellowish and I have noticed that my front teeth are thinning. Absolute shame, but there is very little I can do to stop myself from throwing up.

Anonymous's picture
To the above poster: I too

To the above poster: I too used to throw up every single morning and most of the day during my two pregnancies. It was so bad i lived on crackers, ginger ale and prenatal vitamins for the first 3 months of my pregnancies. Also lost about 20 pounds during that first trimester. I think it helped that i was a bit overweight before getting pregnant so my body used those fat reserves, i could not eat anything else, everything made me sick. The good news is that it did not damage my teeth enamel at all. SO i hope this gives you some hope with your morning sickness.

Anonymous's picture
Here's anbother thing to

Here's anbother thing to think about: most pregnant women who suffer severe morning sickness can't eat too much. So when you throw up it is not the full blown amount of digestive juice and acid that your body would produce for a full course meal. Also, if you've noticed the vomit caused by morning sickness is considerably less as far as amount, taste and color, it almost seems like mere phlegm. So maybe that is why mopst women don't get lofe long damage after pregnancies.

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