Patients with bulimia nervosa are at high risk for dental erosion. However, not all bulimic patients suffer from erosion, irrespective of the severity of their eating disorder. It is often speculated that differences in the saliva are important, however, little is known about salivary parameters in bulimic patients, particularly directly after vomiting. The aim of the clinical trial was to compare different salivary parameters of subjects suffering from bulimia with those of healthy controls. Twenty-eight subjects participated (14 patients with bulimia nervosa, 7 of them with erosion; 14 matched healthy controls). Resting and stimulated saliva of all participants was analysed as well as saliva collected from bulimic patients directly and 30 min after vomiting. Parameters under investigation were flow rate, pH, buffering capacity and the enzyme activities of proteases in general, collagenase, pepsin, trypsin, amylase, peroxidase, and lysozyme. Regarding flow rate, pH and buffering capacity only small differences were found between groups; buffering capacity directly after vomiting was significantly lower in bulimic subjects with erosion than in subjects without erosion. Differences in enzymatic activities were more pronounced. Activities of proteases, collagenase and pepsin in resting and proteases in stimulated saliva were significantly higher in bulimic participants with erosion than in controls. Peroxidase activity was significantly decreased by regular vomiting. Proteolytic enzymes seem to be relevant for the initiation and progression of dental erosion directly after vomiting, maybe by both hydrolysis of demineralized dentine structures as well as modulation of the pellicle layer.
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