I’m wondering if cosmetic bonding is the right choice to repair damage caused by bulimia and what the best way to go about getting services is. I have been with my girlfriend for about a year now and suspected she had something going on, but only just last week confirmed it. She doesn’t know that I know yet, and what I’d like to do is approach her with some solutions that might help her feel better about herself when I do tell her I know. Ultimately, it will probably be me that pays for treatment, so I’m curious what the process will be like as well.
She’s 28 and, as far as I know, has not seen a dentist since she was a child. Her teeth are a constant source of pain for her, but she keeps putting it off. I initially thought she simply had a dental phobia, but now I think she’s probably more afraid that a dentist will know she has been purging (that’s how I found out what she was doing, by the way… I overheard her). A couple of her teeth are chipped, but mostly I think we’re looking at some staining between the teeth.
Sorry to hear about you and your girlfriend’s struggles. We’ll break down some options for you and hopefully give you a clearer perspective about what’s going on.
Bulimia is a Mental Health Condition
Before you begin anything, it’s important to note that bulimia is an eating disorder, which makes it a mental health condition. More often than not, a person becomes bulimic after the onset of another mental health-related issue, such as anxiety. It also routinely occurs alongside things like PTSD, OCD, and substance abuse. People don’t just wake up one day and become bulimic. It’s usually a complex condition seen in people with traumatic histories. Because of this, treatment for it requires addressing the immediate disorder, as well as all the things that have led her down this path, and any co-occurring conditions. Recovering from it can take years of therapy, hard work, and a lifelong commitment to health. It works similarly to addiction; some mental health professionals treat it as an addiction.
Before you go down this road with her, you should know that she probably is feeling ashamed, isolated, and is having trouble coping. So, if you approach her, it may be best for you to speak with a mental health professional first to get information specific to her and learn what resources are available in your area.
Bulimia Impacts Teeth in a Number of Ways
Not every person with bulimia purges. The disorder is characterized by the desire to binge eat and then get food out of their system quickly. The reasons for doing so varies based on the individual. Some turn to things like laxatives, while others, like your girlfriend, purge. In either case, malnourishment is common. This has a profound impact on health as a whole, including oral health. Those who purge also give their teeth an “acid bath” each time they purge. Initially, the teeth simply become more prone to decay, the individual may have mouth sores, or there may be other related symptoms present. As time goes on, the teeth will become brittle and start breaking. Pain increases as enamel erodes, decay deepens, and teeth break down.
“Cosmetic Bonding” May Help
The term “cosmetic bonding” doesn’t really apply here because your girlfriend has damaged teeth—it has gone beyond the cosmetic stage and now she requires restorative treatment. The bonding material is the same, though, and it can be used to repair minor damage, such as cavities and some erosion. However, the fact that she’s in pain suggests that it has progressed quite a bit. There’s a chance she may need more intensive dental work now, such as crowns and root canals. The only way to know for sure what she needs is to have her visit a dental office for a full diagnosis.
Due to her anxiety, you may want to work with a sedation dentist; a doctor who has special training and uses medications to help keep patients relaxed during treatment. If you’re helping coordinate treatment, you can call ahead to offices you’re considering taking her to and discuss the situation with them. The dentist will likely be able to tell based on the damage and her overall health what’s been going on, but should also address it with compassion and concern.
This blog is sponsored by Uveneer.