How Drug Abuse Affects Your Mouth

Various pills, drugs, money, a spoon and a lighter all splayed out on a table.

The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NSDAS) reports that 50 percent of Americans who are 12 and older have used illegal drugs at least once in their lives, and there have been 700,000 drug overdoses in the United States since 2000. With such striking numbers, it’s important to understand how drugs can affect your body, including irreversible and long-term damage to your oral health.

If you are dealing with addiction or know someone who struggles with drug use, you may have questions. What are the signs of drug addiction teeth? What drug makes your teeth turn black? What is meth mouth? Is cocaine bad for your teeth? Our team shares answers to these questions and how different drugs can harm your mouth.

Get free and confidential help finding substance use treatment and information by calling 1-800-662-4357 (844) 8‑SMILE‑NOW
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Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine, or “meth,” is an extremely powerful and highly addictive stimulant that can cause temporary euphoria and bursts of energy. Unfortunately, these short-term effects damage the central nervous system and other parts of the body.

When it comes to oral health, meth is very acidic and causes a significant reduction in saliva production. Without it, meth users often develop the symptoms of “meth mouth,” such as:

  • Extensive tooth decay
  • Severe gum disease
  • Dental discoloration
  • Hallowed out teeth
  • Cracked, chipped, or fractured teeth
  • Missing teeth

Many of these symptoms are also worsened by cigarette smoking and a lack of oral hygiene, which are both common in meth users. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), meth use often leads to long periods of poor dental care paired with teeth grinding and sugar cravings. This combination is extremely damaging to dental health.

Cocaine

Cocaine is another illicit street drug that can be snorted or smoked, such as crack cocaine. Over time, repeated use will erode enamel and cause serious harm to the mouth. Effects of cocaine on oral health include:

  • More acidic saliva
  • Dry mouth
  • Tooth decay
  • Mouth and gum lesions
  • Teeth grinding or clenching
  • Holes in the nasal septum
  • Damage to the roof of the mouth

Other signs of crack cocaine teeth are noticing a crack mouth before and after. After use, symptoms can include discoloration, bad breath, and tooth loss. In fact, a recent study shows that crack cocaine users experience 46 percent more tooth loss than non-users.

Heroin

Although heroin is injected into the veins, regular abuse can still cause long-term dental damage. The effects of heroin are actually very similar to meth mouth, including discolored, rotted, and broken teeth. Also, heroin addicts often experience serious gum disease and missing teeth.

An article published in Medical Science Monitor shares that lifestyle greatly contributes to the poor dental health of heroin addicts. They are less likely to be concerned about oral health and may not have the financial means to seek dental treatment. Additionally, heroin numbs pain, making dental discomfort less noticeable.

Ecstasy

Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), more commonly known as ecstasy, is a psychedelic stimulant that can affect a person’s energy levels and sensitivity to touch and arousal. As a result, ecstasy became a popular “party drug” in the late 1990s and early 2000s. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that it can also increase blood pressure, cause hyperthermia and dehydration, and damage the serotonin system.

Another side effect of ecstasy is xerostomia or extreme dry mouth. Without enough saliva in the mouth, regular ecstasy users may develop:

Marijuana

Cannabis use is known to cause dry mouth, leaving teeth vulnerable to erosion and decay. However, it can also lead to other detrimental effects on a person’s oral health. Smoking marijuana involves inhaling dangerous carcinogens that can increase the risk of developing mouth and neck cancers.

Another side effect of marijuana is an increased appetite. Users may reach for sugary or acidic snacks more frequently, which can lead to increased bacteria in the mouth. Regular users of cannabis may also notice bad breath, bleeding gums, and dental discoloration.

Although medical marijuana may benefit patients in many ways, it’s important to speak to your dentist about ways to mitigate damage to your mouth. 

Tobacco And Nicotine

With regular use, tobacco can lead to several dental issues. Smoking, vaping, and chewing tobacco all increase the risk of oral cancer and other conditions that can affect your health. A review published in Tobacco Induced Diseases shows that tobacco users often develop:

  • Oral lesions
  • Periodontal disease
  • Dental implant failures
  • Issues with salivary glands
  • Cavities
  • Discoloration
  • Mouth cancer

Additionally, nicotine in tobacco products restricts blood vessels, affecting blood flow to the gums. As a result, nicotine users are more at risk for gum issues and tooth loss.

Alcohol Abuse

While alcohol is not an illegal substance, excessive consumption can take a serious toll on your oral health. Alcohol affects the body’s immune system and ability to fight infections, which can lead to severe periodontal disease and painful tooth infections.

Some types of alcoholic beverages also tend to be very sugary and acidic. When these drinks throw off the pH balance of your mouth, it can lead to an increased risk of tooth decay, cavities, loose teeth, bad breath, and more.

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Dental Treatments For Damaged Teeth Caused By Drug Abuse

Drug abuse poses a serious threat to your oral health. However, a dentist may be able to repair the damage with oral surgery and cosmetic dentistry services. With locations in Las Vegas, Reno, and throughout Nevada, our skilled dentists are ready to help with:

  • Teeth cleaning
  • Tooth fillings
  • Root canals
  • Crowns
  • Teeth whitening
  • Dental implants
  • Porcelain veneers
  • Bridges
  • Dentures

However, seeking professional assistance for addiction and drug abuse issues is a crucial first step to getting your oral health back on track.

A support group discussing drug abuse.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 or visit https://www.findtreatment.gov/ for free and confidential support.

Stay on top of your oral health! Book an appointment at Absolute Dental today (844) 8‑SMILE‑NOW
(844) 876‑4536

Sources:

Antoniazzi, R., et al. (2021). Use of crack cocaine increases tooth loss.

Cannabis: Oral Health Effects. (2023).

Drug Abuse Statistics.

Ecstasy/MDMA. (2020).

Gajendra, S., et al. (2023). Effects of tobacco product use on oral health and the role of oral healthcare providers in cessation: A narrative review.

Hullett, A. (2023). How Cocaine Impacts Your Teeth and Mouth.

Lin, Y. (2021). MDMA and mouth ulcers.

Malhotra, R., et al. (2010). Nicotine and periodontal tissues.

Ma, He., et al. (2012). The poor oral health status of former heroin users treated with methadone in a Chinese city.

Meth Mouth.

Priyanka, K., et al. (2017). Impact of Alcohol Dependency on Oral Health – A Cross-sectional Comparative Study.

What is methamphetamine? (2022).

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