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We all know all the harmful ways that illegal drugs can affect our overall physical and mental health.Did you know what drugs can do to your oral health? Drugs such as methamphetamine (meth), heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, and even marijuana can cause problems for your teeth and gums. Here are a few of the main reasons:

  • They all can cause dry mouth, which means you make less saliva. You need saliva to help keep your mouth healthy and clean.
  • Drugs that are stimulants — like meth, heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy — can make you clench or grind your teeth. Over time this can weaken your teeth and can even make them break.

Here are some other ways common street drugs can hurt your mouth.

Methamphetamine (Meth)
In one study, 96% of people who used meth had cavities and 58% had untreated tooth decay. People use the term “meth mouth” to describe this condition of stained, badly damaged teeth.

One reason for the damage is that the drug is acidic and can cause vomiting and reflux. And even though it makes you less hungry, it makes you crave soda and sweets.

The damage can happen in a short amount of time and often leads to the loss of teeth.

Heroin
People who inject heroin into their veins can expect damage similar to what’s caused by meth — rotten, discoloured, broken, and missing teeth, as well as gum disease.

Heroin is a pain-killing drug as well. So in addition to the ways most illegal drugs can hurt your mouth, it also may cause you to ignore the pain of damaged teeth and gums.

Cocaine
This drug can have different effects on your mouth, depending on how you take it. When you snort it, cocaine can damage the tissue between your nose and the roof of your mouth, eventually causing a hole and making it hard to talk or eat.

Like meth, it’s very acidic. So when you smoke crack or put powdered cocaine in your mouth, the acids coat your teeth and can break down their protective enamel.

Sources

Saini G. Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology, Sept-Oct 2013.

Bassiouny M. Substance Abuse, Nov 2012.

Victoria State Government: “Teeth and Drug Use.”

National Institute on Drug Abuse: “High Rates of Dental and Gum Disease Occur Among Methamphetamine Users.”

American Dental Association: “Meth Mouth.”

Mouth Healthy: “Meth Mouth: How Methamphetamine Use Affects Dental Health.”

Medscape: “Methamphetamine, Heroin Users Both Suffer from ‘Meth Mouth.’”

Brand H. British Dental Journal, April 2008.