There are ways to better care for your teeth at home while you seek help. Be sure not to brush your teeth after vomiting, as most bulimics feel compelled to do. The abrasive materials in toothpaste will further damage tooth enamel made sensitive by stomach acid. Eating or drinking anything acidic will have the same effect. Instead, wash your mouth out with water to neutralize the acid, and wait a few hours before you eat, drink or brush your teeth.
Practicing excellent oral hygiene will also help slow the process of tooth erosion. It’s extremely important to receive ongoing professional dental care. Although you may feel embarrassed by the condition of your teeth, visiting a caring dentist will relieve pain and restore your smile. As untreated bulimia effects can lead to large cavities, expensive dental treatment or even tooth loss, treatment should be sought as early as possible. Getting help early will not only strengthen your dental health, but will increase your chances of recovery and improve your self-esteem!
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What is Bulimia Nervosa?
Oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer in men worldwide and almost two-thirds of cases are in advanced stages by the time they are detected. A number of risk factors have long been associated with oral cancer including smoking, human papilloma virus (HPV), gender and age. Recently, heavy drinking has also been linked to oral cancers, especially when occurring in conjunction with other risk factors.
The term “oral cancer” refers to cancers of the lip, tongue, floor of mouth, tonsils and soft palate. If you notice any sores, swelling or discolorations that do not heal on their own after two weeks it is important that you consult your dentist. Early detection can greatly increase your chances of a full and speedy recovery.
The vast majority of oral cancer cases are linked to tobacco use, and the greater frequency and duration of use of tobacco products is directly proportional to increase in risk of oral cancer. Heavy drinking can also increase your risk of oral cancer, but it is the combination of tobacco use and heavy drinking which really causes your risk to skyrocket. It has been estimated that this combination can cause up to a 100-fold increase in your risk of oral cancer.
Men are about twice as likely as women to develop oral cancer and the average age at the time of diagnosis is 62 years. It has been estimated that HPV — which is usually associated with cervical cancer – is responsible for 20 to 30 percent of oral cancers.
If you develop oral cancer, you dentist may suggest a number of dental treatment options, including surgically removing the affected cells, radiation or chemotherapy.
Remember, early detection is indispensible in fighting oral cancer so consult your dentist immediately if you notice any irregularities that do not disappear within two weeks. Your dentist can provide an oral cancer exam at each of your regular dental visits.
Bulimics often try to hide their disease from their loved ones. If you believe a friend or family member may be suffering from bulimia effects, there are several signs to help you determine the problem:
- Frequent vomiting
- Tooth decay
- Tooth discoloration
- Obsession with weight or low self-esteem
- Abnormal eating habits: fasting followed by eating a large amount of food, bizarre food rituals or a poor diet
- Hiding or stealing food
- Repeated tooth brushing or use of mouthwash
- Excessive use of laxatives
- Recurrent stomach ailments
- Tiredness or diziness
Diagnosis and Treatment
For those who suffer from bulimia effects, there is help! If you or someone you know has bulimia, contact a physician for a medical evaluation. Individual therapy and support groups are most helpful in treating the psychological aspects of the disease. Dentists also play a key role in bulimia treatment. Dentists are often able to suspect when a patient is bulimic, due to the specific side effects that repeated vomiting has on teeth.
Once the bulimic has decided to seek help, dental care will become a significant part of their bulimia treatment. As long as the bulimic continues to binge and purge, they will probably suffer from frequent cavities and bleeding gums. Restorative dentistry options may include tooth filling and gum disease treatment, but ongoing bulimia treatment may be needed until the bulimia is cured. In the meantime, fluoride treatments will help reduce sensitivity. A cap or dental crown is often needed to repair extremely damaged teeth, but is usually recommended only after the bulimic can control vomiting.
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Bulimia nervosa is a serious eating disorder in which the sufferer binges and purges their food. Unlike anorexia, where starvation is used to lose weight, bulimia entails consuming a large amount of food, only to expel it soon afterwards by inducing vomiting, using laxatives or exercising excessively. Those who suffer from bulimia are referred to as bulimics, and it most often affects teenage girls and young women.
Considered a mental disorder as well, bulimia makes those who suffer from it feel a loss of control. Stemming from a negative body image, bulimia can wreak havoc on both the body and mind. Bulimics often feel they are “fat,” no matter what the scale says. They may feel depressed or guilty that they can’t stop the disease on their own. And many bulimics display an overachieving behavior and an obsession with weight loss.
A Negative Effect
Although bulimia nervosa is characterized by binging and purging at least twice a week, bulimics often have more frequent episodes. Many force themselves to throw up daily, which is an extremely unhealthy way to lose weight. Stomach bloating, cramping, constipation, dehydration and exhaustion are common side effects from the constant vomiting and lack of nutrition. Bulimics may also notice swelling in the hands, lower legs, feet or salivary glands.
Not only does it do damage to your body, but bulimia nervosa has a devastating effect on teeth! As acid from the stomach enters the mouth, it erodes tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay and tooth discoloration. It not only looks bad, but bulimics often suffer from toothaches, multiple cavities, dry mouth, oral lesions and bleeding gums. For those who have silver dental fillings, the amalgam will appear “raised” due to the reduction of tooth enamel. And having dental braces won’t help — dental restorations and appliances can also become loose and dislodge from the jaw.
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Dentin is semi-reparable. It has reparative capabilities because the odontoblasts that create dentin remain viable after the teeth erupt. When excessive wear, cavities or other irritants start to degrade the dentin, reparative secondary dentin is laid down.
As helpful as this is, the enamel that covers dentin is NOT reparable, so again, your biyearly trip to the dentist is mandatory, as is daily brushing and flossing.
When you get dental cavities, you get them in dentin. Generally, if you get an infection, you get that in the pulp of the tooth. But enamel can wear away by chewing ice or other irritants, thereby making dentin more susceptible to dental cavities and tooth loss.
The most important thing you can do to protect your teeth’s dentin is to brush twice daily and floss every single night — not just when it occurs to you! And don’t forget to see your dentist at least twice a year to keep dentin in tip-top shape.
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Dentin is the technical name for your teeth — well, the substance that makes up your teeth, rather. Dentin is almost bone-like and it makes up most of the structure of your teeth. Dentin is made from cells called odontoblasts and is found under the enamel of the crown and under the cementum in the root.
Dentin is yellow in appearance; it’s the tooth’s enamel that gives teeth their bright white finish. Since enamel is relatively translucent, if not properly cared for by regular brushing, regular flossing and regular dental visits — your teeth can dull and become yellow as enamel starts to wear off. At that point, only the yellowish dentin is left.
“Dentin consists of microscopic channels, called dentinal tubules, which radiate outward through the dentin from the pulp to the exterior cementum or enamel border.” This is all very technical for the biology of dentin, which is a very detailed and complicated process that occurs in the tiniest square footage — our individual teeth!
The highly specialized connective tissue of dentin makes up most of the structure of your teeth. If the inside (pulp chamber) gets infected and is removed by your dentist, dentin will become brittle and can fracture far more easily than normal. This is why, after a root canal, you are generally fitted with a cap or a dental crown.
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Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are often confused with fever blisters (cold sores). However, they are quite different.
Canker sores only form inside the mouth on the gums, cheeks, tongue or floor of the mouth and cannot be transmitted from one individual to another. They begin as small red circular swellings that usually ulcerate [rupture] within a day, after which they become white, surrounded by reddish inflammation and last for 8-10 days.
As open sores, they can be very painful to the touch. Canker sores afflict about 20% of the population. Their cause has yet to be discovered, although they appear to breakout more in stressful situations, from getting a small “nick” in the skin [mucous membrane] or from foods such as citrus fruits and tomatoes.
While they can occur in very young children, canker sores usually manifest themselves in people between the ages of 10-20. It’s not uncommon for them to erupt three to four times a year, but they occur less frequently, or stop all together, in adulthood.
If you have canker sores, avoid rough textured or spicy foods, which irritate them. Try not to touch them with eating utensils or your toothbrush. Apply ointment that contains a topical anesthetic or some other active ingredient that will relieve the irritation.
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Cold sores form outside the mouth, usually on the lips, but they may appear on the chin, outside of the cheek or the nostrils. They begin as a red blister, burst and crust over and last for 7-14 days.
Cold sores – caused by the herpes simplex virus (type 1) – are contagious; they transmit by skin-to-skin contact. The virus, carried by almost everyone, is dormant most of the time. Fever blisters occur most often in young adults and adolescents and decline in people over 35 years of age. Certain factors activate its outbreak, particularly stress, colds, fevers and/or sunburn.
To reduce occurrences, avoid kissing when the blisters are visible. Also, don’t squeeze or scrape the blister. Wash your hands thoroughly before touching someone else and use UV sunscreen on your lips before spending time in the sun.
Treatment of cold sores includes avoiding spicy and hot foods that will irritate them, application of phenol-containing over-the-counter ointments and administration of some anti-viral antibiotics that will shorten their duration (but not prevent their outbreak).
If you’re worried about canker or cold sores, call our office. We’re here to help you deal with these common afflictions and will offer additional treatment recommendations, as necessary.
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What’s the difference between a fever blister and a cold sore?
Fever blisters and cold sores are two of the most common disorders in the mouth. They cause discomfort, annoyance, and sometimes, embarrassment. Both cause sores to develop in or around the mouth, and are often confused with each other.
The difference is that a cold sore occurs only on the inside of the mouth (tongue, linings of the cheeks, lips and throat) and fever blisters usually occur outside the mouth on the lips, chin, cheeks or nostrils.
If they do occur in the mouth, they are usually on the roof of the mouth or gums. They will appear smaller than cold sores and often begin as a blister.
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The application of systemic or topical fluoride since the early 1970’s has lowered the incidence of tooth decay on the smooth surfaces of the teeth. However, about 90% of the decay found in children’s teeth occurs in tooth surfaces with pits and fissures. To solve this problem, dental sealants were developed to act as a physical barrier so that cavity-causing bacteria cannot invade the pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of back [posterior] teeth.
A sealant is a plastic resin material that is usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth—premolars and molars. This material is bonded into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of the chewing surfaces and acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from attack by plaque and/or acids.
Dental sealants are usually professionally applied. The dentist, hygieniest or assistant cleans and dries the teeth to be treated; then paints a thin layer of liquid plastic material on the pits and fissures of the tooth. A blue spectrum natural light is shined on the applied material for a few seconds to cure the plastic. Some brands of sealants cure chemically.
After curing, the plastic becomes a hard, thin layer covering the treated portions of the tooth. Despite the incredible pressures placed on teeth during chewing each day, dental sealants often remain effective for five years or longer, although sealants do wear naturally and should be checked at regular intervals. If sealants wear or become damaged, they can be repaired or replaced simply by applying new sealant material to the worn or damaged portions.
Children should receive sealants shortly after the eruption of their first permanent molars, around age 6 and again at age 12 when their second molars appear.
During the child’s regular dental visits, we will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them when necessary.