Drug abuse is a growing problem worldwide, with millions of people using various forms of drugs for recreational purposes. The likes of the opioid crisis in the US, alcohol addiction globally, and the rise of ketamine addiction once again, is not only having a huge impact on overdose and death figures, but creating a rising number of health problems and strain on the system, including in dentistry.
Drugs can have a major impact on oral hygiene and in a number of ways too. Here are the top five ways in which drugs can cause dental problems…
Tooth decay and gum disease
Drug abuse can cause a range of dental problems, including tooth decay and gum disease. Methamphetamine, for example, can cause severe tooth decay, known as “meth mouth,” due to its corrosive properties. Cocaine and crack cocaine can also lead to tooth decay and gum disease, as they reduce blood flow to the mouth, causing gums to recede and teeth to become loose.
Another danger of drugs on oral hygiene is dry mouth. Many drugs, including marijuana, can cause dry mouth by reducing saliva production. Saliva helps to neutralize acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Dry mouth can also cause bad breath and difficulty eating and speaking.
Drug abuse can also lead to oral thrush, a fungal infection that can cause white patches in the mouth and throat. Oral thrush is more common in people with weakened immune systems, which can occur due to drug abuse. Methamphetamine use, in particular, can damage the immune system, making users more susceptible to infections such as oral thrush.
Drug abuse can also increase the risk of oral cancer. Smoking drugs such as marijuana and tobacco can lead to cancer of the mouth, tongue, and throat. Additionally, chewing tobacco can cause cancer of the cheeks, gums, and lips. The risk of oral cancer is higher for people who use drugs in combination with alcohol, as alcohol can damage the cells in the mouth and throat, making them more susceptible to cancer.
Finally, drug abuse can lead to bruxism, a condition where a person grinds or clenches their teeth. Bruxism can cause tooth damage, headaches, and jaw pain. Drugs such as methamphetamine and ecstasy are known to cause bruxism, which can be exacerbated by stress and anxiety.