A lot of things can impact the health of your teeth, from the foods that we eat and the beverages we drink to our daily attention to oral hygiene. Of course, some things are more detrimental than others, and drug use – whether it’s illegal or prescription drugs – can potentially cause some real problems.
Some of these drugs (particularly those that have been prescribed by a doctor) only have an indirect effect on your teeth and gums while others (particularly those “cooked up in a lab”) will have a much more direct and destructive effect.
Drug Side Effects On Your Teeth
Different drugs can affect your teeth and gums in different ways, and some of the known side effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Mouth sores
- Inflammation and swelling
- Tooth Decay
Many of these are merely temporary effects, and your doctor should even warn you to expect things like dry mouth and even some swelling in the gums. You should also always tell your dentist if you’re taking medications that cause these effects so we can adapt our treatments to your needs.
Dry mouth, for example, is an extremely common side effect (of both prescription and illegal drugs). When this happens, it can lead to irritated and inflamed tissues and a greater risk that, without saliva naturally washing away the bacteria on your teeth, more cavities will occur.
On the other side of the scale, some drugs, like crystal meth, can turn white teeth to black (an effect referred to as “meth mouth”), cause decay so bad that the teeth literally crumble apart, and even contribute to infections in the bone. In these cases, nothing short of a full mouth rehabilitation will restore the teeth to a functional level.
Which Drugs Cause the Most Problems?
Let’s take a closer look at how some of these drugs can destroy your teeth.
Club drugs – Speed and ecstacy cause severe tooth decay, dry mouth, and a lot of jaw clenching and teeth grinding.
Heroin – This drug is often considered to have an indirect impact on teeth because it increases cravings for sugary foods and drinks. And, under the influence of this drug, users are unlikely to prioritize oral health.
Methamphetamine – Meth leads to sever dry mouth and sugar cravings. It is highly acidic and has led to the term “meth mouth” because of how quickly it erodes teeth.
Cocaine – This drug causes users to clench and grind their teeth until they wear down the enamel. It also causes serious tooth decay and dry mouth.
Marijuana – Users are seven times more likely to have gum disease than those who don’t light up (research suggests it’s a similar effect to smoking tobacco).
It’s also important to remember that it’s not just prescription and illegal drugs that can impact your oral health. Tobacco, whether chewed or smoked, will damage the gums and affect the bones and soft tissues where they attach to the teeth. Alcohol, even just a glass of wine, is highly acidic and can erode your teeth and dry out your mouth.