Most people have been told that they shouldn’t do drugs because it could ruin their health, their relationships, their job, school, or even kill them. We’re going to add one more problem to that list. You could lose your teeth too. A variety of drugs can impact the health of your teeth, gums, and the rest of your mouth. Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly abused drugs and what they can do to your teeth and mouth.
Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth, Speed, Crank)
I bring this one up first because it is the most dangerous of all the drugs for your oral health. Meth has a variety of effects on your oral health that can cause you to lose all of your teeth in very short order (think a year or less) which is almost impossible otherwise.
- Meth is extremely caustic. It literally can eat away the enamel covering your teeth.
- Meth causes extreme dry mouth and cravings for sugary beverages. The beverage of choice for most meth addicts in Mountain Dew which is consumed in large quantities. The combination of dry mouth, sugar, and acid breaks down the enamel of the teeth rapidly.
- Meth is one of the most addictive drugs of abuse currently known. Most people hooked on it can’t stop without help.
- I’ve personally seen many young people in their early twenties who have had to have all their teeth removed and dentures placed (not a fun process) due to meth abuse.
- Good dental care generally won’t halt the progression while meth use is ongoing. The only way to stop the process is to stop using meth.
Tobacco Containing Products
I’m going to include Cigarettes, Cigars, and Smokeless Tobacco in this category because they all have very similar effects on your mouth even if they work slightly differently and have slightly different risk areas.
- Contain a variety of carcinogens (cancer causing compounds) that are in close contact with the tissues of your mouth. This leads to high rates of cancer long term.
- Cause you to build up more plaque and tartar around your teeth resulting in gum inflammation and periodontal disease.
- Decreased healing in your mouth especially after surgical procedures such as having a tooth removed.
- Higher risk of cavities, root canals, gum disease, dry socket, and tooth loss.
- Higher risk of an implant failing
- Smokeless tobacco has an especially high risk of developing oral cancer in the area where the tobacco has been placed.
- Extremely addictive and difficult to quit without help. This is a result of the nicotine in the products.
- Bad breath is common.
- You can develop black hairy tongue. It is exactly like it sounds, and no, it isn’t pleasant.
- Increased risk of developing sinus inflammation.
- Cigars aren’t any safer than cigarettes. They have as much nicotine as a full pack of cigarettes and higher level of toxins.
Alcohol is always an interesting one because a lot of people don’t think of it as a drug. I think this is unfortunate because alcohol abuse can have some of the worst consequences of any on this list (including many of the illegal ones).
- Increased risk of oral cancer, especially when combined with tobacco containing products.
- Increased bleeding after surgical procedures
- Reduced effectiveness of commonly used drugs in dentistry including anesthetics
- Increased dry mouth
- Increased exposure to fermentable carbohydrates in alcoholic beverages
- Can cause vomiting which is extremely damaging to teeth
- Increased risk of gum disease
Marijuana (Weed, Pot, Hash)
While arguably safer and less addictive than tobacco it does carry many of the same risks as tobacco use including exposure to toxins, decreased healing, and an increased incidence of gum disease. Smoking drugs in general is pretty dangerous for your oral health. Taking this drug orally (as added to food, etc) will reduce a lot of the risks that are specific to your mouth.
Cocaine (Crack, Coke, Blow)
Cocaine was one of the first drugs known to be abused. People used to (and still do) chew on the leaves of the cocoa plants for the rush they get. Pure cocaine is a whole different story than the leaves though…
- Cocaine can cause extreme dry mouth leading to an increased risk of cavities.
- Some people will rub the cocaine into their gum tissue to help it absorb. This can cause some significant irritations of the tissue in the mouth.
- Increased incidence of teeth grinding which can damage and break them.
An interesting note about cocaine is that it is actually one of the first known anesthetics. People who snort cocaine through their nose get a profound numbing feeling in the area due to it’s anesthetic properties. It is still used occasionally for some applications in medicine and dentistry but has been mostly phased out in favor of newer anesthetics. It is also the only anesthetic with a potential for abuse.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of all the drugs you could possibly abuse. There are a lot more. I’ve only included the ones that can have very significant and well known effects on your dental health. Many of the other drugs of abuse can also cause some problems with your oral health as a result of increased dry mouth, grinding, or other interactions.
If you do use drugs, please let your medical or dental provider know even if it is a bit uncomfortable to check that box on your health history. They can provide far better care for you if they know this. At the very least, it can make treatment more comfortable for you, and at most it may save your life.
If you find that drug use becomes persistent and you are using them as a way to cope with stress or you continue to use them despite repeated negative consequences, you may have an issue with addiction. Ask for help as this isn’t usually something you can conquer with your willpower alone. You usually need help from friends, family, or professionals. There are a lot of good and free resources available today that can help you through this.