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8 Drugs that Destroy Dental Health

Alexa Iocco Drug Addiction , Drug Detox , Drug Rehab January 31, 2022

8 Drugs That Destroy Dental Health Resurgence Behavioral Health

How Drug Use Affects Dental Health

Millions of Americans are affected by substance abuse and addiction every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10.2 percent of the United States population ages 12 and older, had reported some type of illicit substance abuse in the past month. Those who are regularly participating in using illicit drugs and alcohol, are putting themselves at a higher risk of suffering physical harm. The CDC also found that about 23.4 percent of Americans above the age of 18, engaged in at least one heavy drinking day in the past year.

It is well known that heavy drug and alcohol use can wreak havoc on a person’s health, but many people are not aware of the effects of substances on oral health. Studies have shown that individuals with substance use problems have worse oral health than others, which can include tooth decay and gum disease.

Drug and alcohol abuse can lead to a wide range of health issues, including damage to the lungs, heart, brain, and stomach, but there is also a risk for some drugs to cause teeth and gum damage. One of the reasons for this is that people with addiction spend a large portion of their time intoxicated on drugs or trying to get more drugs, which means they often neglect their hygiene, including their oral hygiene. Some also cannot afford a dentist or may just not care about taking care of their teeth and gums.

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Many drugs can affect the mouth, including both illegal and prescription drugs. Some of the effects they can have on oral health are:

  • Dry Mouth: many drugs can cause a person’s mouth to produce enough saliva. Regular dry mouth can cause difficulty chewing, swallowing, or even talking. Having dry mouth also increases the risk for fungal infection and tooth decay because saliva is what keeps harmful germs in check.
  • Clenching Teeth and Jaw Pain: Stimulants, such as ecstasy, methamphetamine, and cocaine can cause a person to clench and grind their teeth. Over time, this can cause chipped, loose, and worn teeth, as well as pain in the jaw muscles and joint.
  • Tooth Decay: some drugs increase the urge for sugary snacks and drinks. If a person is constantly eating these throughout the day, they can develop cavities.
  • Erosion of Tooth Enamel: one of the causes of erosion of tooth enamel, is when people rub cocaine on their gums. Saliva and cocaine mixed together is acidic, which can erode the protective outer layer of the tooth (enamel). It can also cause gum sores.
  • Increase Acid Reflux and Vomiting: acidity from the stomach can rise through acid reflux or vomiting. When this becomes frequent, it can rot teeth and also erode tooth enamel.
  • Loss of Blood Flow to Roots and Gums: which can kill the roots of the tooth and cause widespread tooth loss.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies: when people are constantly intoxicated, they fail to feed themselves properly causing nutritional deficiencies. Calcium and vitamin D deficiencies can cause brittle bones, which includes teeth.

Symptoms Of Damaged Oral Health

Poor oral hygiene can cause many health problems, from cavities and tooth sensitivity to advanced gum disease. Periodontitis (infection of the gums) and other gum or tooth disease can also lead to other health complications such as cardiovascular disease, dementia, respiratory infections, and kidney disease. These are all caused by the bacteria that grow in the mouth uncontrollably and travel to other parts of the body.

It is important to know the signs and symptoms of gum disease so if they develop, you can see a dentist and hopefully prevent any other health issues like those mentioned above. Some of the symptoms to look for are:

Gum, mouth, and jaw pain: these can be signs of stress, including cold sores. It is well known that stress contributes to many physical and mental disorders.

Loose or lost teeth: this is a sign of advanced gum disease and also a sign of osteoporosis.

Bleeding gums: bleeding or sore gums are a sign of gum disease. This can also be an indication of something more serious, such as diabetes. Diabetes can reduce the body’s ability to fight bacteria.

Sores, lumps, or patches in the mouth: these can be something benign like a canker sore. But they can also be a sign of something more serious like oral fungal infection or oral cancer. Oral cancer occurs most often in smokers and those who use other forms of tobacco, or alcohol.

Changes in the enamel (tooth surfaces): damaged enamel is usually caused by acidic substances, including drugs, alcohol, dry mouth, acid reflux, and vomiting. Enamel loss can cause teeth sensitivity.

Bad Breath (Halitosis): bad breath can come from dry mouth, gum disease, and gingivitis. Untreated gum disease can lead to sinus infections, gastrointestinal problems, chronic lung infections, diabetes, and liver or kidney disease.

Drugs That Affect dental Health (Meth, Cocaine, Opioids, Alcohol)

Public health advertisements have made it almost common knowledge that meth abuse damages teeth. But there are many other substances that can damage teeth and gums. Even with proper oral hygiene, many of these substances cause some sort of damage to oral health. The most common drugs associated with jaw, teeth, gum, and oral hygiene damage are:

  1. Alcohol: Even though alcohol is legal, it can be addictive to some. Made from fermented sugars and added sugar after the fermentation process, it can lead to a faster buildup of plaque. Acidic in nature, it can also lead to tooth decay. Alcohol can also cause digestive problems such as acid reflux which wears away teeth.
  2. Tobacco: Using tobacco products can cause oral or throat cancers. It can also cause dry mouth and lead to gum disease, bad breath, and teeth damage.
  3. Marijuana: Smoking anything can cause mouth or throat cancer, including marijuana. It is also known to cause dry mouth, or cottonmouth, which damages enamel.
  4. Prescription and OTC drugs: Many types of OTC drugs can cause tooth decay and damage when taken long term. These include aspirin, antihistamines, prescription asthma medications, oral contraceptives, immunosuppressants, and medicated cough syrups. Syrups will also rot tooth enamel due to their high concentrations of sugar.
  5. Opioids and opiates: Heroin can cause sugar cravings, leading to damaged teeth and their roots if consumed frequently. Even though they are not stimulants, they can cause teeth grinding which leads to tooth cracks and jaw damage. Injecting opioids can increase the risk of developing fungal or viral infections of the mouth. Because they reduce pain, many users will not be aware of the pain associated with gum disease or cavities, which can progress into irreversible damage. There is also the chance that dental surgery can lead to opioid addiction when they are prescribed opioid painkillers. Even though they are milder opioids, they can still trigger addiction in some.
  6. Amphetamine: These stimulant drugs are often called “club-drugs”, which include ecstasy and MDMA and can cause users to grind their teeth, leading to tooth cracks and jaw problems. These drugs also cause dry mouth and dehydration, which damages enamel and other mouth structures.
  7. Cocaine: A potent stimulant, it is acidic and causes different types of damage depending on how it is taken. If it comes in contact with teeth, it can damage the enamel and when rubbed into the gums can cause sores which can become infected. Also, when snorted it can cause damage to the sinuses and the upper palate, which can lead to a hole between the nose and mouth. This is another drug that causes teeth grinding. Crack cocaine is smoked and anything you smoke causes teeth and gum damage.
  8. Meth: Meth mouth is poor dental health associated with meth use and the drug quickly rots teeth. One of the reasons is that meth causes blood vessels to shrivel and die, creating many gum problems. It is another drug that causes dry mouth, which causes many oral health issues. Because it is a stimulant, it causes teeth grinding and those with a meth addiction tend to crave sugary foods and drinks. Students at the University of California, Los Angeles, conducted a study that found that 96% of people who struggled with meth addiction had cavities, 58% had tooth decay, and 31% had six or more missing teeth.

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Gum and teeth diseases caused by drugs and alcohol are often overlooked. Oral diseases can be very serious and the longer they go untreated, the worse the damage is and the harder it is to treat any issues. Teeth damage and loss can cause eating difficulty, even after drug use has stopped, and damage a person’s self-esteem. Gum disease can lead to an array of many health issues including cardiovascular disease and dementia. Saving your teeth and oral health is just another reason to get help for drug or alcohol addiction today.

At Resurgence Behavioral Health, we offer multiple levels of care including detox, inpatient, and outpatient care for every type of drug or alcohol addiction. We tailor every treatment to each client in order to give them the best chance for long-term sobriety. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction and are looking for drug rehab, please give us a call today. One of our addiction specialists can help you get started with recovery today.

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