Oral Manifestations of bulimia

Oral Manifestations of bulimia


Bulimia nervosa is a serious type of eating disorder in which someone engages in a dangerous, potentially-fatal cycle of binge eating and purging. During a binge eating episode, someone will feel out of control as they consume a large amount of food over a relatively short time period, while purging is a compensatory behavior that weeks to “undo” the effects of a binge eating episode. People could purge by misusing diuretics, laxatives, and/or enemas, or they may force themselves to throw up. 


How Does Bulimia Manifest Orally?

Bulimia can have an effect on many different body parts, including the mouth and its surrounding areas. Repeated self-induced vomiting can lead to the discoloration of teeth, enamel erosion, tooth sensitivity, as well as the development of cavities. A person suffering from bulimia may also experience swelling around their salivary glands, and their face may appear bloated due to fluid retention. 


Other Physical Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

Physically speaking, other symptoms of bulimia may include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Other non-specific gastrointestinal issues such as acid reflux or constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Dry, brittle nails
  • Lanugo, or fine hair all over the body
  • Muscle weakness
  • Yellow skin from eating lots of carrots
  • Thinning of hair on the head
  • Cuts and/or calluses across the tops of finger joints from induced vomiting
  • Sleep issues
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Noticeable weight fluctuations
  • Impaired immune system functioning
  • Constantly feeling cold
  • Dizziness
  • fainting/syncope
  • Poor healing of wounds
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Cold, mottled hands and feet
  • Swollen feet
  • Abnormal laboratory and bloodwork findings, such as low hormone levels, anemia, slow heart rate, low blood cell counts, low potassium


Behaviors and Emotional Signs Linked to Bulimia Nervosa

There are also various emotional and behavioral symptoms that may suggest someone is suffering from bulimia. These include:

  • Frequent dieting
  • Major mood swings
  • Having secret, recurrent binge eating episodes
  • Evidence of binge eating, such as the presence of many empty containers and wrappers or the disappearance of large amounts of food during a short period of time
  • Evidence of purging, such as the presence of laxatives and diuretics wrappers and packages, signs and/or smells of throwing up, and frequently using the bathroom after eating
  • Discomfort eating in front of others
  • Skipping meals 
  • Taking small portions during meals
  • New food practices or fad dieting
  • Stealing food
  • Hoarding food in odd places
  • Drinking water or non-caloric beverages in excess
  • Hiding the body by wearing baggy clothing
  • Behaviors and attitudes that suggest dieting, weight loss, and food control are a major concern
  • Food rituals, such as excessive chewing, not allowing foods to touch, and only eating a type of food or food group
  • Using excessive amounts of mints, gum, and/or mouthwash
  • Creating a schedule to allow time to binge eat and purge
  • Social withdrawal
  • Withdrawing from usual activities
  • Maintaining an excessive, inflexible exercise routine
  • Frequently looking in the mirror for perceived appearance flaws
  • Displaying major concern with one’s shape and body weight


Getting Help


If you or someone you love is suffering from bulimia nervosa or another type of eating disorder, you may wish to contact an eating disorder helpline. While bulimia nervosa is a serious illness, it is, thankfully, treatable. If you find yourself in a crisis, you can text “NEDA” to 741-741 at any time to be put in contact with a properly trained individual. Additionally, we can help you here at Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists. You can reach us via phone (866-525-2766), email, or by filling out our contact form.

Scroll to Top