The Effect of Substance Abuse on Oral Health

Most people are aware that abuse of substances such as alcohol and drugs can cause a number of physical and mental health problems. Alcoholism and addiction can lead to heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, cancer, depression, anxiety, and dementia. However, there are many other conditions associated with substance abuse; one that many individuals are unaware of is the effect it has on oral health.

Some drugs can have a devastating effect on teeth and gums, and because many addicts do not practice good oral hygiene means that tooth decay and associated problems are quite common. Addicts often suffer from conditions such as gingivitis, chronic tooth decay, and cracked teeth. Unfortunately, very few of them will seek help from a dentist and will just ignore the problem.

Oral Hygiene

People who become addicted to substances such as alcohol or drugs tend to think of nothing but their need for the substance to which they have become addicted. They often neglect their personal hygiene and grooming, and oral health will certainly not be on top of their agenda. Many do not eat healthily, and alcoholics, especially, tend to get most of their calories from alcohol.

With such poor oral hygiene, it is no surprise that many addicts and alcoholics suffer pain in the mouth. Nevertheless, true to form, they tend to self-medicate with either alcohol or drugs instead of seeking help from a qualified dentist.

Teeth and gums can be further aggravated by vomiting, which is often a common side effect of substance abuse.

Tooth Decay in Alcoholics

Alcoholic beverages are generally quite high in sugar, which can lead to tooth decay, especially in those who are failing to brush their teeth regularly. Alcoholics often spend little time worrying about their personal or oral hygiene and many tend to go for long periods without brushing their teeth. This means they are prone to tooth decay and gum disease.

Meth Mouth

Meth mouth is a condition caused by the drug methamphetamine. Users of this drug tend to suffer from rotten, broken and discoloured teeth. This illegal drug can cause a dry mouth because it stops the saliva glands from producing saliva. This means that acid from food and drink erodes the enamel on the teeth and because addicts tend to neglect their oral hygiene, their teeth suffer even more. The highly corrosive ingredients found in methamphetamine cause extreme tooth decay and can also result in sores in the mouth.

How Stimulant Drugs Affect the Teeth

Those who are addicted to illegal stimulants such as cocaine, amphetamine and ecstasy tend to grind or clench their teeth while intoxicated. This often results in the teeth being ground down and cracked. When teeth are cracked and damaged, it can lead to further problems in the mouth, including root and gum damage. Teeth can become loose and may need to be removed. Stimulant drugs also result in dry mouth, and those who abuse these drugs also tend to drink alcohol or sugary soft drinks, exacerbating tooth decay.

The Effect of Heroin on the Teeth

Heroin has a devastating effect on the teeth and gums of those addicted. Heroin addicts often fail to practice any oral hygiene, resulting in serious problems such as severe tooth decay, gum disease, snapping teeth and mouth trauma. This tends to be due to the sugary food and drink diet that they have because of the drug as well as the fact that they will usually neglect to brush teeth.

Alcohol and drugs cause many problems, but the effect on oral health can be devastating.

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