I walk into the dentist for my regularly scheduled cleaning. Two years had passed since my last visit. My teeth felt healthy and pain-free. After a routine brushing, flossing and probing, the dentist looks at me with deep concern. “I want you to see a periodontist. You may need surgery.”
Surprised and confused, I leave the office with a clean mouth and a head full of worry.
The periodontist shared my results very matter-of-factly. “You have 40 percent bone loss in your lower teeth.” Okay, and that means? He went on to explain that my teeth were losing bone around the root, where the tooth anchors into my mouth. If it continues, the teeth will detach from the root and fall out.
Fall out. As in lose forever. Never to grow back. Toothless at 28.
How exactly did this happen to me? I was healthy, I flossed daily and always brushed my teeth. What could have gone wrong?
I began to question everything about my health. It became an obsession to understand why my bones were deteriorating. I read dozens of nutrition books, learned more about anatomy and physiology and researched methods for building bone density.
During this time I had also just begun weekly therapy for an eating disorder. I’d battled bulimia for ten years and was finally ready to get help. I shared the teeth discovery with my therapist. She listened, then asked why I thought this happened. At the time I blamed my years eating a vegan diet. It seemed logical to me that the lack of proper nutrients resulted in my teeth dilemma. She left it at that and therapy continued for six more months.
As the months passed, I learned more about bone loss as well as the health consequences of bulimia. Bone loss can be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from difficulty absorbing nutrients in autoimmune diseases to taking certain medications for cancer treatment to damages from eating disorders. Generally something is interfering with calcium and vitamin D absorption.
I was quick to discredit the link to bulimia. It had already caused so much suffering that I could not fathom another consequence. I continued to solely blame my past dietary choices for the bone loss.
Near the end of my therapy intensive, we circled back to my teeth. The notion that it could be tied to bulimia was nagging me. I shared my doubts about the link to bulimia and my therapist challenged, “I think the bulimia is the culprit, it is commonly seen with this disease.”
Finally it sank in. Bulimia caused my tooth deterioration. I accepted it. The concentration on my lower teeth was a clear indication. Years of purging allowed harsh stomach acid to flood my mouth and be in regular contact with that area, slowly corroding my teeth.
Bulimia Physical Effects:
►Irritated digestive system
►Bloating, abdominal pain
►Lack of vitamin and mineral absorption leading to malnourishment
►Sore throat, indigestion, heartburn and reflux
►Inflammation & rupture of the oesophagus
►Electrolyte imbalance resulting in cardiac arrhythmia, muscle fatigue and cramps
►Stomach & intestinal ulcers
►Irregular or slow heart beat
The list only includes physical side effects and does not go into the just as damaging emotional health impacts.
28 and toothless. That’s the story I have to tell. It’s been two years since I received the bad news and I now have a reverse braces contraption in my mouth holding down my bottom teeth. The teeth I’ll eventually lose. Honestly, a tooth could fall out any day.
Yes I’ve accepted it and own my mistakes and continue to do the work to ensure further damage is not done. But I’ll never get my teeth back.
Bulimia: Caring for your Teeth, http://eating-disorders.org.uk/information/caring-for-your-teeth/
Physical Effects: Bulimia, https://www.eatingdisorders.org.au/eating-disorders/bulimia-nervosa/physical-effects