Feb 7, 2011
The pictures are vivid and hard to forget: hard-core meth addicts who look disheveled, decades older than their actual age, and have rotting teeth. While meth can cause this kind of rampant tooth damage in just months, what about other illegal drugs? Sadly enough, methamphetamines aren’t the only drugs that can have a significant negative impact on teeth.
Heroin addicts, for example, often have poor dental health due to neglect. In addition, heroin addicts often have cavities along the gum line as well as periodontal disease, because the drug causes a decrease in the production of saliva. Saliva protects the mouth, neutralizing acids that cause cavities and providing lubrication reducing the retention of food debris. Furthermore, heroin users are notorious for craving sweet, sugary foods. A high consumption of these foods leads to a higher risk of tooth decay.
Another illegal drug, cocaine, can be disastrous to teeth because the acids in cocaine can erode the tooth enamel. This also results in the exposure of teeth to the bacteria that can cause decay. And in terms of how it is used, cocaine is often rubbed on gums, leading to a very acidic mixture when combined with saliva, and one that is extremely detrimental to teeth.
Another side effect of cocaine is that it causes an extremely dry mouth, leading to less saliva to combat bacteria. And those who smoke crack cocaine run the risk of the effects of smoke on their mouth as well as damage to tooth enamel, gums and even nerves. Finally, cocaine can have deadly effects when combined with typical dental anesthetics used for routine treatment. Cocaine can interact with the epinephrine in the anesthetic to greatly increase the risk of heart attack.
One other drug often mentioned with respect to its impact on dental health is that of ecstasy. Those who use this drug are prone to tooth grinding, which wears down tooth enamel in much the same way as those who grind their teeth at night. However, those who grind their teeth at night often wear a protective mouth guard at night to prevent this kind of damage to tooth enamel, while those who use ecstasy or other drugs that lead to tooth grinding are unlikely to do so. Other effects of ecstasy usage include jaw clenching and a dry mouth, and as with cocaine use, a dry mouth reduces saliva and its protective effect in the mouth.
Clearly, the bottom line is that illegal drugs are not only harmful to so many aspects of one’s life, but they can also have serious impact on areas related to one’s health that are barely thought about – until it’s too late.