Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Let's talk about teeth!

Today's topic is teeth. Yeah, I know, I've talked about it before on here. But I think it is one of the neglected parts of our bodies we talk about with eating disorders. And let's face it realistically, many of the symptoms, ie starving, purging, chewing/spitting, etc. can all cause some major teeth damage. It's only been fairly recently that we've realized how early dentists can pick up on the preliminary effects of an eating disorder, though I'm still not sure how much it is discussed in general (for one, none of my dentists ever said anything, I had to tell them)

For those off you who don't know my story, I was bulimic for many years. For over a decade now, I've had some numerous teeth problems, costing thousands of dollars, no joke! It is sadly probably one of the permanent damages from my eating disorder. Currently, I need like 3 or 4 implants and a bridge replaced. No fun, everyone. It sucks to lose your teeth to harsh, violating acts you have done on your body.

So here's the thing. Though logically I knew my teeth damage was likely permanent, I did have some hope I could reverse part of the damage or at least keep it at bay by not purging which I kicked when I began my "true" recovery about 2 1/2 years ago (gosh, it has been hard to believe it has been that long) For me, training for the marathon that year (2008) was part of the impetus to end that bittersweet love affair. There have been some other complications with that, but that is another story for another day.

A few weeks ago, I had a dental appointment. This was for a general cleaning (last time, they just did a light cleaning due to some "pockets") and to have 3 cavities filled. Yes 3! Prior to this, I didn't have any indications other than some slight tenderness to coldness. There hasn't been any purging in a long time, there was no major killer infection or toothache this time, yet still, I was surprised to have 3 cavities! I also have an irritation where one of my teeth was extracted, but my dentist said she could not find anything. It's annoying knowing that something is causing that irritation but not to have a reason.

In some wrong assumption (you know where logic fails you), I had thought that once I stopped purging, all my teeth problems would be resolved. I had felt that just like I was taking care of my body, I was also taking care of my teeth in the same way. I brushed, flossed (okay, this could be better), rarely drank soda or carbonated beverages, etc., but problems still arose. Don't get me wrong, I have far less trouble with my teeth than before, but it is still a reminder that I must be vigilant about them. And that, yes, I will likely always have some susceptibility to teeth problems.

So people, the take home message is don't forget about your teeth! You may not think you are doing damage now, but this like other symptoms of an ED can be lasting and permanent. This certainly doesn't mean that if you have teeth damage, then the hell with it, there is no hope. But rather, be vigilant, remind yourself that you only have your teeth once, so just like the rest of your body, they are important to take care of. (there's only been a very few people that I've known who could actually grow teeth!) Go see your dentist! Just like you would see a medical doctor, therapist, psychiatrist, or dietitian/nutritionist, your dentist is important too!

Okay, I'm done for my spiel of the day. :-)


Angela said...

I'm sorry that you have had so much trouble with your teeth. It is hard to face the fact sometimes that we have permenently damaged our bodies in this way. It is something that is often overlooked when talking about the dangers of bulimia.
Hope you are having a good week. Take care:)

Katie said...

I have this problem too, but I never purged - I'm phobic of vomiting. My rubbish teeth are half genetic, half poor nutrition. I guess teeth and bones are made of the same sort of thing, so since I have osteopenia it follows that my teeth are weak too. The ED has done the same thing with a mild heart arrhythmia, my low blood pressure and sensitive digestive system too - turned a minor physical irritations which run in the family into major problems. It's so frustrating, I've been taking care of myself for more than two years now but it looks like the consequences are going to last a lot longer than that :/ I don't think that would have stopped me when I was ill though - eating disorders don't exactly respond to logic!

Linda said...

Our society seems to prefer to not think about how important our teeth and gums are since we usually have very little health coverage in this area. I have a hard time also and am struggling to keep up until I can find the money to get implants and tissue replacement. The thing is, if you lose gum tissue and then bone, you can't even wear dentures and that is scary.

Tiptoe said...

Angela, hope you have a good day!

Katie, true, EDs are not logical! We tend to go through the invincibility stage even if we know the consequences.

Linda, I had forgotten about the issue of lost bone and tissue, but you are right. I was fortunate to still have some bone left.

ola said...

It seems so unjust that you have teeth issues, but if your teeth problems were a trigger for recovery, I think it's so so so much worth it! My Grandfather used to say that our body is like bank and it remembers everything we invest or take away. So I think your body is still remembering its tough times, but it will remember the good care you are giving it now a swell! On the other side teeth quality is strongly genetic determined, so that don't blame just yourself/ED for these problems.

I Hate to Weight said...

i'm off to the dentist today to have two cavities filled. in the the last few weeks, i had three other ones filled. and i'm 47 -- i should not have multiple cavities every single time i go to the dentist!

this topic was very much on my mind today. i've had a long day at work and really don't feel like a long visit in the dentist's chair. i hate it. novocaine makes me really nauseous.

i am so pissed at myself for causing all this. but i have, and now i'm doing what i need to do.

glad to read this post. thanks.

Lucy said...

This is such an interesting post, you're right, our teeth are really neglected. I'm kind of grateful that for some reason my body never really let me purged, perhaps I should be grateful to my brain for never really pushing it that far. Because luckily my teeth seem to be doing ok! It's hard to tell really, I doubt they're as strong as they used to be but I've only chipped one or two and it's not noticeable. I guess I'm one of the lucky ones and now I have an opportunity to appreciate my teeth. I'm so sorry that you've had so many problems with yours, but just think how much worse they would be now if you had carried on.

Missy said...

My teeth are fugged and fugly and it's all my fault.
Yup - it's awful and costly.

Sarah @ Bearing, Eating, Being said...

I'm sorry to hear this. This is a really helpful and motivating post, though, so at least you have been able to turn your experiences into an encouraging kick in the pants blog post for others! Your attitude is really inspiring--you don't sound like you're being too hard on yourself. I know it can be tough to cope with the long-lasting effects of an ED :(

flaweddesign said...

yup all my front teeth are in need of veneers and my back teeth close to extraction and impants. my parents spent what seemed like so much money on my teeth to give me the smile i have and I've made it into ab ugly transluscent, yellow gong show that i'm embarassed to even show. and will be sinking much money into to fix. but first the ED must go before i drop any cash on my teeth.

Tiptoe said...

Ola, yeah, no clue what my genetics are. It's certainly a possibility, but I will say, I hard beautiful teeth and no cavities until all the ED mess.

Lucy, I hope you do not have teeth troubles, so keep working hard at recovery.

Missy, so sorry :-( No fun for sure.

Sarah, I'm much less hard on myself than I used to be. I think it is an important issue and really does make people self conscious, so if I can bring some awareness to it and help someone else out, I'm all for that.

Flaweddesign, I have felt similarly to you too. Teeth stuff are just so expensive these days. I always told myself that once I stopped purging, I'd get my teeth implants. Now, I just have to wait on the money part.

Tiptoe said...

Melissa, I hope your dental appt. went okay. It is not much fun going, especially when you know there are cavities.

Cammy said...

I always thought I was watching out for my teeth by not purging, but restricting screwed me up tooth-wise all in itself. I've had several decalcifcation spots, lots of sensitivity from years of eating excessive amounts of raw vegetables that scraped the enamel off my teeth over time, severe gum recession from malnutrition, etc etc. I actually had a dentist accuse me of being bulimic one time, even though I have *never* purged. And you'e right, this isn't something that just *poof* goes away when the ED is under control, you just have one set of teeth to last a lifetime! I've actually talked about my dental issues in therapy on more than one occasion, because of the weight of the guilt and "well I screwed this up irreparably" feeling I've carried over it.

Great post, this is an issue that gets overlooked too often.

Tiptoe said...

Cammy, thanks for sharing. As we know it is just no a "bulimic" thin,g but an Eating disorder thing. I hope in time, your teeth will get better. It's ad knowing that they will likely never be what they once were though.

Jenna Schrock said...

Bulimia is one of the most common eating disorders. A person with Bulimia often has damaged teeth, due to poor nutrition. I've always admired people who have recovered from this. If you're still having problems with your teeth, though, you should consult a dietician immediately.