Most people already know that street drugs are harmful to overall health. They alter brain chemistry, weaken the heart and damage the liver, among other serious health consequences. An often-overlooked side effect of drug use is damage to oral health. Illegal drug use can cause a host of issues in your mouth, some of which may lead to tooth loss if you do not seek help for your addiction and the oral health problems caused by it.
Xerostomia, also known as “dry mouth,” can be triggered by a number of street drugs. Saliva neutralizes the acids and harmful oral bacteria that cause gum disease and tooth decay, and your oral health will deteriorate rapidly if you develop xerostomia, which is characterized by a reduction in saliva flow. Drugs that cause dry mouth include Cannabis (marijuana), Ecstasy, Cocaine, Crack Cocaine, Methamphetamine and Heroin.
Tooth Enamel Erosion and Decay
Drugs that are smoked are highly acidic and can wear away the enamel of the teeth. The enamel is the hard outer coating of the tooth, and once acids destroy this protective layer, the teeth are more vulnerable to Streptococcus mutans, the bacterium that causes tooth decay. Smoking crack cocaine or methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth, will erode your enamel and cause your teeth to decay rapidly. Additionally, Methamphetamine and Heroin cause users to experience sugar cravings. Sugars combine with the bacteria in the mouth to create acids that lead to enamel erosion and eventual decay.
Bruxism is a condition marked by grinding the teeth and clenching the jaw. Cocaine, Ecstasy and Methamphetamine all cause users to grind their teeth, which can have devastating oral health consequences. Unchecked bruxism can lead to excessive tooth wear, cavities, tooth loss, chronic jaw pain, headaches and jawbone deterioration.
Improper Oral Hygiene and Dietary Habits
Most habitual drug users neglect their oral hygiene to a degree. The American Dental Association recommendations of brushing a minimum of twice a day and flossing once a day are rarely followed during a drug high. If plaque and its associated harmful oral bacteria are allowed to collect on the teeth and gums, cavities and gum disease are inevitable. Factor bad dietary choices into this equation and oral health problems will run rampant. Drug users often eat very little or eat too many sugars and starches, both of which negatively affect the mouth and the health of the entire body.
Dental issues caused by drugs cannot be adequately addressed until you kick the addiction, as your problems will keep recurring with continued use of these harmful substances. Seeking help from your physician or a drug abuse counselor is the first step, but another important component of your recovery is restoring your oral health by scheduling a consultation with a general dentist. Depending on your unique issues, your dentist can restore your oral function and help you smile with confidence using a variety of general and cosmetic procedures, which may include gum disease therapy, crowns, porcelain veneers or dental implants.