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Drug addiction and abuse are global issues.
Drug abuse refers to those who take illegal or legal substances, such as alcohol, excessively or in the wrong way.
Users may suffer from the following:
In addition, people who abuse drugs are more likely to develop serious oral health conditions.
Drug users can typically quit. They do not suffer from ‘codependency.’ Drug addiction, however, is when a person is physiologically and physically dependent on drugs.
Substances that can lead to poor oral health and general health outcomes include:
Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical. It can be found in:
Nicotine is also one of the leading causes of disease and death in the United States.
About 34 million adults in the United States smoke cigarettes. Additionally, over 16 million cigarette smokers suffer from smoking-related diseases.8
Further, about 1600 American teens under 18 years of age try their first cigarette every day. About 200 of them become regular cigarette smokers.9
Smoking also links to:
The serious oral health conditions smoking links to include:
Tobacco products contain chemicals that decrease saliva flow.
If the mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva, plaque builds up faster and is harder to remove.
Unremoved plaque turns into calculus, also known as tartar. Calculus is hardened plaque.
Tartar can only be removed professionally by a dentist. Over time, unremoved plaque and tartar result in cavities and gum disease.
Similar to plaque buildup, smokers are more likely to develop dry mouth.
Xerostomia is a less serious oral condition occurring when the mouth’s salivary glands do not produce enough saliva.
Tobacco and nicotine slow down how quickly the mouth makes saliva.
This can result in the following conditions, among others:
The following can lead to chronic bad breath:
Tobacco is the leading cause of oral cancer in adults.
About 90 percent of people with oral cancer use tobacco.10
This type of cancer can affect the following:
Smoking on its own doesn't result in gum disease.
However, long-term smoking contributes to dry mouth. Dry mouth leads to increased plaque and calculus buildup.
Over time, gingivitis (reversible gum disease) or periodontal disease (PD) can form. PD results in permanent bone loss and eventually tooth loss.
Smoking can stain teeth:
Stains can be removed by a dentist or with at-home whitening treatment. However, smoking makes discoloration more difficult to remove.
Smokers have "masked" or "silent" gum disease.
This is because nicotine reduces blood flow. This reduced blood flow results in less sensitive gums and minor bleeding.
Chronic alcoholism is a highly progressive psychiatric illness. It leads to uncontrollable alcohol consumption.
Moderate alcohol use is defined as one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. Women who consume at least eight drinks a day and men who have at least 15 drinks per day are considered “heavy drinkers.” 3
Excessive consumption of alcohol negatively impacts the following:
Minor oral health conditions that may form due to long-term alcohol consumption include:
More serious oral health conditions that can develop from long-term alcohol abuse and addiction include:
Dental erosion occurs when acidic substances wear away tooth enamel. The condition is irreversible because enamel cannot regrow.
Excessive, long-term alcohol consumption can lead to dental erosion.
Enamel erosion linked with alcohol abuse links to regular vomiting and regurgitation. This is because stomach acid is very acidic.
Consuming acidic alcoholic drinks, such as wine can also result in erosion over time. This is because the pH levels of most wines are low.
Poor oral hygiene is a common trait in alcoholics. In addition, alcohol’s drying effect can contribute to the formation of plaque.
Plaque is a sticky bacterial layer that triggers an inflammatory response in the gums.
If plaque isn’t removed completely, tartar (hardened plaque) and cavities develop over time. If the tartar spreads below the gum line, periodontal disease commonly forms.
If the disease is left untreated, permanent bone loss and possible tooth loss can occur.
Heavy drinking is the second leading cause of oral cancer in adults.
People who have at least four drinks a day are about five times more likely to develop mouth or throat cancer than those who never drink or drink moderately.11
Long-term addiction to certain drugs can result in serious oral health complications.
For example, cavities and gum diseases are more common in users than in non-drug users. For example, periodontal disease.
This is because people who abuse drugs do not visit dentists regularly (twice a year). Therefore they have more plaque buildup on their teeth.
Some drugs, like cocaine, also weaken the immune system. This increases an addict’s risk of developing oral infections.
Similar to tobacco and nicotine, drug addiction can also lead to:
In addition, long-term drug addiction can cause:
Bruxism is the habit of grinding teeth while sleeping or throughout the day. It affects about 90 percent of the U.S. population.12
Some children outgrow the habit, while others do not. However, bruxism can also result from long-term drug abuse or addiction.
Certain drugs that may cause teeth grinding include psychotropics (psychoactive drugs).
These stimulant drugs are chemical substances that change how the brain functions.
This results in:
Commonly prescribed psychoactive drugs include:
Drug users are less likely to visit the dentist, doctor, or take care of themselves generally. Once they are dependent on a substance, they only care about getting more of that drug.
As a result, people who use drugs do not brush their teeth regularly. They also typically only eat inexpensive foods that are high in sugar.
Depending on the drug, some people stop eating altogether. This results in malnutrition.
All of these factors lead to poor dental health, including:
Many drugs have negative effects on an individual’s oral health.
For example, some commonly used drugs that harm the oral cavity include:
Frequent cocaine users are more likely to develop oral infections because the drug has immunosuppressive effects. These effects weaken the immune system.
Cocaine users have a higher chance of developing:
Ecstasy is an amphetamine, otherwise known as a psychoactive drug.
It alters bodily sensations and increases energy. It is an illegal substance that people take recreationally.
However, long-term use of ecstasy can lead to:
Heroin is a synthetic and highly addictive opioid drug. It is processed from morphine, a natural opiate.
Addiction to this drug is directly linked with poor oral hygiene due to bad personal hygiene and long-term malnutrition.
The following are also common in heroin addicts:
Many users of this drug also clench or grind their teeth and experience tenderness in the jaw muscles.
Chronic addiction to methamphetamine can result in “meth mouth,”.
This condition is characterized by:
Common signs of meth mouth include:
People addicted to meth typically lose teeth, especially if they do not receive treatment.
Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a common medical and recreational drug.
Frequent cannabis users typically have poorer oral health than non-users.
They are more likely to develop:
Heavy marijuana use also causes greenish-brown stains on the teeth.
Long-term addiction or abuse of prescription medication can lead to serious oral conditions, such as:
Common drugs include:
If you or a loved one are suffering from nicotine, alcohol, or drug addiction, it is crucial to seek treatment.
In addition to finding an addiction treatment center and mental health facility, oral health treatment should also be a high priority.
If you are experiencing any issues related to dental health, visit a general dentist or dental specialist as soon as possible to explore your treatment options. For example, abnormal development of cavities, gum inflammation, sensitive teeth, or unexpected tooth loss.
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