The harmful side effects of drug addiction are far reaching. From neurological side effects to those effecting the musculoskeletal system, drugs can severely damage most parts of the body quickly. Drug abuse can also cause significant damage to your mouth and teeth, including severe tooth decay and gum disease. Many times, the mouth is the first indicator that a person has a severe addiction. This is a result of the drug’s side-effects in addition to lack of oral hygiene.
While all drugs lead to oral health issues, some cause more issues than others. For example, methamphetamines and the teeth are commonly associated due to the obvious destruction it can do. However, it shouldn’t be just limited to that. All drugs do damage to your teeth.
How drugs damage teeth
Diverse drugs ultimately react the same way in the mouth, causing issues that can lead to severe tooth decay, gum disease or loss of teeth. Dry mouth is commonly associated with drug use and can lead to an increase in acid in the mouth, which leads to the destruction of enamel. Once enamel is gone, it can’t be replaced. This leads to tooth discoloration and an increased likelihood of developing cavities. In addition, drug use restricts blood vessels, which decreases blood flow to the mouth. Less blood flow results in root and gum damage. Finally, stomach ulcers are also common in those who abuse drugs, and a lack of oral hygiene combined by continued drug use can cause these ulcers to become infected. These infections can spread to the rest of the body and become dangerous for the patient.
The most common association of poor oral health and drugs occurs when someone abuses meth. Colloquially known as meth mouth, meth and teeth do not coexist well together. Meth causes the blood vessels all over the body to shrink and shrivel, and in the mouth this can lead to tooth loss. In addition, dry mouth is common, which leads to an increase in acids in the mouth. As previously mentioned, this leads quickly to tooth discoloration. Many times, when you see someone who is addicted to meth, their teeth have a grey or brown tint. This is due to the loss of enamel. Studies have shown that 96% those who struggle with a meth addition have a cavity, while 58% have tooth decay and at third had at least one missing tooth.
While some states have chosen to legalize the use of marijuana, it’s important to remember that this doesn’t mean there aren’t adverse health events that can occur with its use. Those who smoke marijuana have an increased likelihood of developing oral cancer. In addition, and just like smoking cigarettes, this can cause severe dry mouth which leads to a destabilization of oral acids. Finally, marijuana can cause vomiting, which increases the amount of acid in the mouth as well. None of this is good for your teeth.
Drug users addicted to cocaine ingest the drug in a variety of ways. For those who rub the powder on their gum lines, there is a greatly increased likelihood of developing mouth sores. Not only are they painful, but these sores can easily become infected and lead to other infections in the body. Since cocaine is a stimulant, it may also lead to movement disorders that can result in jaw and muscle spasms. Grinding of the teeth is also common, which can cause significant damage to the enamel and wear down the teeth.
Drug abuse can lead to significant oral health problems such as losing teeth, gum disease and even oral cancers. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addition, please give us a call and we can help identify resources available in our community.
Also published on Medium.