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When Bulimia Damages A Smile, Prosthodontists Can Fix It

CHICAGO, Feb. 25. 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- "We don't realize how important our smile is until it's gone," reveals Allison, a recovering bulimic. She required innovative dental treatment to restore teeth damaged by bulimic erosion. National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is February 24-March 2, 2013.

(Photo:  http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130225/DC66145)

The statistics are staggering. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including bulimia, binge eating disorder and anorexia.

While the effects of anorexia become noticeable to others, the visible effects of bulimia are more subtle. A tooth is like a chocolate coated candy; a hard shell (enamel) on the outside yet soft on the inside (dentin). At first, teeth may not look damaged from the front for many bulimics; the patient may not notice it when they look in the mirror.

Prosthodontists see a different story when performing a dental exam. Prosthodontists are specialized dentists with advanced training in oral health issues such as restoring tooth enamel eroded in the prolonged acidic environment of a bulimic's mouth. 

"During the dental exam, I see severe wear behind the teeth due to acid erosion," said board certified prosthodontist Kenneth S. Kurtz, DDS, FACP, of New York, "Even biting into a pretzel stick can chip or crack a tooth damaged by bulimia."

How long does it take the surface to wear down?

"Like most complex medical problems, it depends on age of onset, and if the incidence of purging can be categorized as mild, moderate or severe, in frequency. With severe bulimia, if a patient is purging 20 times a day, in 3-4 years the teeth can readily chip. The teeth are like any other organ in our body that can become severely damaged from destructive habits," said Dr. Kurtz.

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