How to talk to a dentist about bulimia

KindredGhost1983KindredGhost1983 Posts: 1,187Registered Users
One of my sisters has refused to go to the dentist, for fear of them bringing up her previous struggles with bulimia in college. She has fully recovered from it, but does not want to visit a dentist. She hasn't been there in two years, because at the last checkup she had, the dentist loudly brought up that the enamel on her teeth was eroded and asked if she had an eating disorder. My sister told her yes, but felt like her privacy was being invaded and that she was being forced to bring up something she no longer has to deal with.

Last weekend, she told me she is having pain in her back teeth and I'm assuming they're her wisdoms. Anyone who has had this type of pain probably knows that it does not get better!!! I told her she might or might not need to get them taken out (she's in her late 20s), and that she would do well to go get them checked out anyways.

Does anyone have any advice on telling her how to approach her dentist, so he/she could be a bit more sensitive? Or ways to encourage her to go??
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Comments

  • PriscillaPriscilla Posts: 278Registered Users
    I think any good dentist, doing his job, may bring it up. Dentists, like eye doctors, can often see the first signs of various health issues. It isn't an invasion of privacy for a health care professional to bring up a concern. Actually he / she is bound to do so by professional ethics.

    (If you told her that would she understand? and then maybe not feel so invaded?)

    If the dentist does bring it up, can she just say"

    "That's all in the past now. Thank you." and leave it at that?

    (Or when she calls to make an appt. can she mention it ahead of time on the phone and say it has been resolved and that she would prefer not to discuss it during the appt? Or maybe tell the hygenist (usually female), who does most of the work in advance, that she doesn't want to discuss it w/ the dentist?)

    Good Luck to her!
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    No other religion offers God's love and redemption coming to us free of charge, as a gift, with no strings attached, no performance required, no standard to meet.

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  • RedCatWavesRedCatWaves Posts: 31,258Registered Users Curl Neophyte
    As the past bulimia has caused obvious health concerns for her teeth, she should bring it up first with the dentist. As with any healthcare provider, they can't help you unless you are honest with them. They are supposed to be non-judgmental, and if this guy isn't, maybe she should find another dentist. Maybe there is something that can be done to heal or correct the damage that was done to her teeth.
  • puffinpuffin Posts: 205Registered Users
    My sister was bulimic - and my dad is her dentist. He knew she was bulimic before he looked at her teeth though, so he wasn't in total shock when he saw the damage she had done.

    I think it will be pretty apparent to any dentist when they look at your sister's teeth what's going on. Maybe dentists have an obligation to ask a patient about it to make sure that the patient is not still bulimic, or if they are, then to encourage the patient to get some help.

    JMO, but your sister could offer up the info herself before the dentist takes a look. Just like, "I wanted to let you know that I struggled with bulimia awhile ago, and my teeth were affected by it. But I have recovered and no longer do it." That way, the dentist knows what to expect and she won't feel interrogated. I think many dentists would bring it up eventually if she didn't.
  • iris427iris427 Posts: 6,002Registered Users
    I agree that it's the dentist's professional duty to bring it up. To me, it sounds like your sister still has unresolved issues regarding her eating disorder that she needs to address. To me, this isn't about the dentist at all. It's about her needing to come to terms with something in her past and how she feels.

    Others may disagree.

    ETA I agree with Puffin and RCW that she might try bringing it up first, so she doesn't feel put on the spot if the dentist asks. If the dentist is not sensitive to her needs, she might look for another.
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  • KindredGhost1983KindredGhost1983 Posts: 1,187Registered Users
    Thanks so much for these responses!!! It makes sense that any health care provider would bring that up for professional ethics.

    It is an issue that she does shove to the back of her mind, almost pretending it didnt happen, she hates to talk about it so much. Perhaps that is a separate topic though.
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  • SystemSystem Posts: 39,059 Administrator
    My sis had anorexia and bulimia both when she was a teenager. My belief is that you *never* really get over an eating disorder, even if you learn to maintain a normal weight. I'm not surprised that your sister still doesn't want to talk about it.
  • iris427iris427 Posts: 6,002Registered Users
    SuZenGuide wrote: »
    My sis had anorexia and bulimia both when she was a teenager. My belief is that you *never* really get over an eating disorder, even if you learn to maintain a normal weight. I'm not surprised that your sister still doesn't want to talk about it.

    I can definitely understand that, even though I'd never had an eating disorder myself. I struggled with depression my first year in college and I still don't like to talk about it at all, even though I feel like I've pretty much put that in the past. So I think there is a part of it I have still never dealt with and that's why it's so hard for me to even acknowledge that it happened.

    I hope your sister will be able to address this in the future and get dental care. Good luck to her.
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  • SystemSystem Posts: 39,059 Administrator
    It might help to call before the visit and let them know about her history of eating disorders and her sensitivity towards people mentioning them. That way she doesn't have to worry about statements being made and feeling uncomfortable or judged.

    Speckla
  • KurlyKarenLeeKurlyKarenLee Posts: 1,048Registered Users
    I would be grateful he knew what bulimia was. When I was 22 and struggling with bulimia, I told my dentist when he commented that I had the gums of a 40 year old (receding). His response was, "What's bulimia?" I had to explain it to him --which was really embarrassing!

    O.k., O.k. --that was before Karen Carpenter died and everyone knew what eating disorders were but --come on --this is a disorder that affects TEETH! A dentist should know about it.
    KurlyKarenLee

    You can say what you want about the South, but you never hear of anyone retiring and moving North.
  • toothfairytoothfairy Posts: 242Registered Users
    One of my sisters has refused to go to the dentist, for fear of them bringing up her previous struggles with bulimia in college. She has fully recovered from it, but does not want to visit a dentist. She hasn't been there in two years, because at the last checkup she had, the dentist loudly brought up that the enamel on her teeth was eroded and asked if she had an eating disorder. My sister told her yes, but felt like her privacy was being invaded and that she was being forced to bring up something she no longer has to deal with.

    Last weekend, she told me she is having pain in her back teeth and I'm assuming they're her wisdoms. Anyone who has had this type of pain probably knows that it does not get better!!! I told her she might or might not need to get them taken out (she's in her late 20s), and that she would do well to go get them checked out anyways.

    Does anyone have any advice on telling her how to approach her dentist, so he/she could be a bit more sensitive? Or ways to encourage her to go??


    if a dentist suspects an eating disorder, he/she is supposed to ask. it's not an invasion of privacy. it's a) because placing permanent restorations in an-eating disordered person's mouth is considered unethical since they'll ultimately fail and b) because eating disorders put you at risk for other medical conditions and as your dentist, he/she needs to know.

    that being said, she should just flat-out tell her doctor "look, I did suffer from an eating disorder and I know it's had effects on my teeth."
  • toothfairytoothfairy Posts: 242Registered Users
    SuZenGuide wrote: »
    My sis had anorexia and bulimia both when she was a teenager. My belief is that you *never* really get over an eating disorder, even if you learn to maintain a normal weight. I'm not surprised that your sister still doesn't want to talk about it.

    so did I. and I don't think I'll ever recover in the true sense. you can give up the behavior but the train of thought's in the back of your mind and resurfaces. these past years I'm for the most part okay but every so often when stress is too much for me to handle, I slip back for awhile.


    at least if I have bulimic/anorexic patients (I'm a 3rd year dental student), I'll be able to be compassionate.
  • medussamedussa Posts: 12,993Registered Users
    toothfairy wrote: »
    SuZenGuide wrote: »
    My sis had anorexia and bulimia both when she was a teenager. My belief is that you *never* really get over an eating disorder, even if you learn to maintain a normal weight. I'm not surprised that your sister still doesn't want to talk about it.

    so did I. and I don't think I'll ever recover in the true sense. you can give up the behavior but the train of thought's in the back of your mind and resurfaces. these past years I'm for the most part okay but every so often when stress is too much for me to handle, I slip back for awhile.

    Much like an alcoholic never stops being an alcoholic, even if they stop drinking.

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