Drug use can have a serious impact on several aspects of your life including physical and mental health, your career, finances and relationships. One of the biggest areas that can be impacted, but isn’t spoken about that much, is your teeth and oral hygiene.

Here, we explore the impact of drug abuse and oral health as well as dental treatment in recovery.

Types of drugs that can affect dental health

Dental problems and drug addiction go hand in hand [1]. This is because regular drug use can lead to serious tooth damage and issues with oral hygiene. Some of the most common types of drugs that have an impact on dental health include:

Alcohol – As alcohol is typically acidic, alcohol use can lead to a dry mouth, tooth erosion, and also increase the risk of mouth cancer.

Tobacco – Smoking tobacco can lead to several dental concerns including increased risk of cancer, gum disease, bad breath, and tooth yellowing.

Cannabis – Cannabis smoke can increase the risk of mouth cancer, cause dry mouth, and lead to gum disease. It can also result in bad breath and a build-up of bacteria.

Cocaine – Cocaine and gum disease are very common because some people rub cocaine on their gums which can lead to gum ulcers. Cocaine is also very acidic when it mixes with saliva which can result in tooth enamel erosion and tooth decay. Cocaine also causes dry mouth and tooth grinding.

Ecstasy – Common side effects of ecstasy include tooth grinding, dry mouth and jaw clenching. As the teeth become weaker and ground down, bacteria can increase and gum disease can occur too.

Methamphetamine – Referred to as ‘meth mouth’, these types of drugs are highly acidic and can quickly result in tooth decay. Other common side effects include jaw clenching, teeth grinding, and dry mouth.

Common dental problems associated with drug use

The most common type of dental problems that drug users will experience includes dry mouth, tooth decay, gum disease and oral infections. Drug use can lead to cravings and many crave sugar which can result in tooth decay. It’s common for drugs to reduce the amount of saliva in your mouth too which is known as dry mouth and can also lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

Jaw clenching and tooth grinding are common drug use effects and can also lead to cracked and broken teeth as well as jaw pain. Bacteria can also build up in the cracked teeth leading to tooth decay and oral infections. Another way that oral infections can occur is because some drug users rub substances on their gums which leads to open sores and ulcers. When you’re under the influence of drugs, you may also be less likely to brush your teeth which can lead to several dental problems.

If you regularly vomit, this can have an impact on your teeth as the acid in the vomit can cause tooth erosion. For this reason, it’s important to rinse your mouth with water after vomiting and then after an hour brush your teeth to protect the enamel. It’s important to not brush your teeth immediately as this can actually damage the enamel.

Preventing tooth decay from drug use, as well as the other oral health conditions we’ve mentioned, can be achieved by maintaining a good oral hygiene routine. However, the best way to boost your dental health in the long-term would be to stop taking drugs.

Tips for maintaining good dental health while using drugs

It’s not always easy to stop taking drugs, especially if you’re suffering from an addiction. It’s important to remember that there is help out there [2]. But in the meantime, these tips can help you to maintain your dental health while taking drugs.

  • Avoid fizzy drinks that contain a lot of sugar to protect your teeth enamel
  • Reduce the amount of sugary food you intake including sweets, lollies and biscuits
  • Be sure to drink plenty of water
  • Chew sugar-free chewing gum to increase your saliva production
  • Try to maintain an oral hygiene routine that includes brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day
  • Consider quitting alcohol and smoking
  • Be gentle with your gums and teeth to avoid breaking the skin and causing bleeding

If you can, it’s wise to try and visit a dentist at least once a year. They will be able to provide self-help tips and advice in a non-judgemental manner. If you do need any support with addiction, remember that your GP can provide information for you. We can also discuss local support services for addiction recovery treatment near you.

Seeking dental treatment while in recovery

While you might feel embarrassed about your dental health, or maybe even scared, your dentist will be trained and experienced in dealing with situations like this. What’s more, if you’re in pain, they will be able to help. Getting help for your dental problems [3], before it’s too late, can also prevent more serious health conditions from occurring such as tooth loss and cancer.

You can access dental treatment on the NHS but it’s important to tell them about any drugs or alcohol that you take. This is because the treatment and medication they can offer will depend on your drug use.

Your dentist may provide dental fillings and restorative work to support decayed teeth or they may remove decayed teeth in the worst-case scenario and fit bridges, implants or dentures. A fluoride solution may also be applied to the surface of your teeth to help strengthen them and reduce the risk of decay. They may also give you details of a fluoride mouthwash or toothpaste that can be used at home. You’ll also be provided with dental health tips for drug users and advice for oral hygiene for drug users.

Alternatively, you can access dental care as part of a rehabilitation programme at a leading drug rehab centre. To do this, you’ll need to have joined a rehab centre either by contacting your GP or speaking to our team at Addiction Advocates. If you have any questions about drug rehab and dental care or want to know more about drug use and dental health, our friendly team is only a message away. Pick up the phone today on 0800 012 6088 [4]  and you can take one step towards a more pain-free and healthier future.


  • [1] Dental problems and drug addiction go hand in hand - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4453891/
  • [2] help out there - https://www.bakerstreetdental.com/blog/new-study-backs-link-between-drug-abuse-and-poor-oral-health/
  • [3] help for your dental problems - https://www.dundee.ac.uk/projects/oral-health-improvement-people-experience-drugs