How Drugs Impact Dental Health
It may be fairly clear that drug abuse can have a serious impact on several aspects of your life, but one specific impact is how drugs impact dental health.
Find out here what specific drugs can do to your dental hygiene and what you can do to avoid these issues.
What Drugs Can Affect Dental Health?
Dental problems and drug addiction go hand in hand, this is because regular drug use can lead to serious tooth damage and issues with oral hygiene.
But what drugs have the potential to make your oral hygiene decline? Some of the most common types of drugs that have an impact on dental health include, but aren’t limited to:
Alcohol and teeth are not a good mix, and this is down to a combination of many things, first beginning with the acidic nature of alcohol.
Alcohol, and many mixers, have an acidic profile that has the potential to erode the enamel, making the teeth more susceptible to decay. Along with this, there is dry mouth after drinking which makes it difficult to produce saliva.
Thus, without saliva, the acidity cannot be neutralised; nor can food particles be washed away and there are no antimicrobial properties that can control levels of bacteria. Dry mouth may seem like something you could be almost used to after binge drinking episodes, but consistency with this behaviour is going to increase risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
There is also the staining that comes along with the likes of red wine, and the sugar content in cocktails and sweetened beverages. This is something that is easily avoidable, so if you’re to drink alcohol do it in moderation and avoid the overly sugary beverages.
Tobacco (Cigarettes, Cigars, etc)
Tobacco is known for its negative yet addictive effects all over the body. However, one of the biggest negative impacts is on the teeth and overall oral hygiene.
You may initially think about how drugs affect dental health in terms of illegal substances, but tobacco has just the same amount of baggage when it comes to oral health. Tobacco can cause gum disease and with persistent use, tobacco smoke can affect the tissue cells of the gyms causing inflammation.
Subsequently, this can lead to periodontitis – a severe form of gum disease. After this, you could suffer tooth loss, staining and bad breath. However one of the most serious impacts that tobacco can have on your dental health is cancer.
Tobacco is the largest risk factor for oral cancers including the lips, tongue, cheeks, throat and both the floor and roof of the mouth.
One main concern with cannabis use and oral health is dry mouth. THC in cannabis can reduce the production of saliva and as you now know, is detrimental to oral hygiene.
With sustained use, you may have dry mouth commonly. If this is the case, you’re not able to neutralise acids or control the level of bacteria in your mouth leading to tooth decay and gum diseases.
Cocaine and gum disease is a very common combination.
This is due to the fact that some methods of taking cocaine include rubbing the white powder on the gums, ultimately, leading to gum ulcers.
Not only that, but Cocaine is also very acidic when it mixes with saliva which can result in tooth enamel erosion and tooth decay. Not to mention the behaviours that come with the high of Cocaine, including uncontrollable teeth grinding.
Ecstasy’s effect on dental health is similar to that of cocaine. Due to the behaviours that come along with being high on Ecstasy, things like tooth grinding and jaw clenching are common and can damage the teeth.
Similarly, there is again the issue of dry mouth, making bacteria easily make its way around the mouth, opening the door to bad breath, gum disease and tooth loss.
One of the hardest drugs is Meth, which induces a great deal of problems upon oral health.
Referred often 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 on top of what is already a dangerous overall health risk.
Common Dental Issues from Drug Abuse
While it often depends on the substance being used and how often, there are commonalities across all drugs when it comes to the impact on oral hygiene and health.
The most common type of dental problems that drug users will experience include:
- Dry mouth
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Oral infections.
Drug use can lead to cravings, plus many crave sugar which can result in even further tooth decay.
Jaw clenching and tooth grinding are common drug use effects and can also lead to cracked and broken teeth as well as jaw pain.
If this is the result, bacteria can also build up in the cracked teeth leading to tooth decay and oral infections.
Something else to keep in mind is if you regularly vomit from drinking alcohol or taking drugs, 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 avoid taking drugs.
How to Maintain 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. 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.
How to Seek Dental Treatment in Addiction 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, 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 and you can take one step towards a more pain-free and healthier future.
-  Dental problems and drug addiction go hand in hand - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4453891/
-  help out there - https://www.bakerstreetdental.com/blog/new-study-backs-link-between-drug-abuse-and-poor-oral-health/
-  help for your dental problems - https://www.dundee.ac.uk/projects/oral-health-improvement-people-experience-drugs