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The consequences of drug use on oral health

It is already known that drugs have harmful effects on health, especially when consumed frequently and/or in large quantities. However, most of these substances also have special harm in the mouth. Here we compile some of the most consumed drugs and their consequences on oral health.

A) Tobacco, the most consumed drug

Tobacco is a drug that is very harmful to oral health despite the fact that its consumption is very normalized and widespread. One fact: eight out of ten oral cancer patients are smokers. In addition to this, tobacco increases the chances of developing periodontal disease by four, increases the risk of infections, complicates healing leading to episodes such as alveolitis, can cause the loss of implants, causes dry mouth and bad breath, favors the development of cavities, stains the teeth, favors the development of fungi and other lesions of the oral mucosa and impairs taste and smell.

B) Marijuana

Although there are those who consider marijuana a soft drug and its consumption is allowed in some countries, cannabis is not without risks, including for the mouth, since all the oral consequences of tobacco consumption are applicable to marijuana.


C) Cocaine can destroy the palate

Spain is one of the European countries with the most traces of cocaine in wastewater according to a recent study by the European Observatory for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). Leading this ranking is bad news, since this drug harms health in general and the mouth in particular. This drug can cause ulcers in the gums and promote bruxism or teeth grinding. In addition, cocaine has a vasoconstrictive effect, so that when abused, the tissues do not receive enough blood and oxygen, and can become necrotic and produce direct communication between the mouth and nose. This is a serious problem that can make it difficult to speak and eat normally. The only solution will be to use a palatal obturator to seal this unnatural communication, otherwise the air would escape through the palate or you could end up choking. Later, a complex maxillofacial surgery would have to be planned to fix it.

D) Amphetamines

Amphetamines are central nervous system stimulant drugs. Although in some cases they are used with a medical prescription, most of the time they are used without a prescription to “get high”. If we focus on oral health, the consumption of these substances can affect teeth, gums and joints. On the one hand, amphetamines can trigger bruxism that can cause tooth sensitivity, wear, fissures, fractures, pain in the temporomandibular joints, etc. On the other hand, these types of drugs cause dehydration, with all the consequences already described that a lack of saliva in the mouth has.


E) Methamphetamine and oral health

Methamphetamine is a derivative of amphetamine, but in similar doses it has a more powerful effect. But its harms are also greater, having even created the term “Meth Mouth” to refer to the mouths of addicts. And it is common for its users to present very advanced cavities, a lot of tartar, swollen gums, rotten teeth... Bruxism, dry mouth and lack of hygiene taken to the extreme can end up leading to this situation.

F) Heroin

Heroin is an opioid drug derived from morphine that can have very serious health effects. Although there was a heroin epidemic throughout the world in the 80s, fortunately, its consumption has been gradually falling since then. However, it is still there and its consequences should not be ignored. At the oral level, heroin can lead to situations very similar to those described in methamphetamine addicts, although in this case it is largely due to the great analgesic effect of this drug, which can lead to cavities or infections in the mouth advance without giving the typical warning signs of pain.

G) Fentanyl, one of the most dangerous

Heroin consumption is decreasing, but fentanyl consumption, a drug up to fifty times more powerful, continues to grow, and is already one of the main causes of death in countries like the United States. Its consequences are similar to those described in the previous oral drugs, but as it has an even greater sedative effect than heroin, it can mask the pain even more, so many of its users can lose teeth without realizing it.

H) Alcohol, a minor drug but that also has consequences

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, that is, a drug that slows down brain activity. Although it is not comparable to the risks that some of the substances described above have, it is not harmless, and even less so for oral health. One of its main risks is that its abuse can multiply the risk of suffering from oral cancer by six, since it makes the mucous membranes more permeable and facilitates the entry of carcinogenic agents into our body. On the other hand, most alcoholic beverages are acidic, which can erode our teeth, something also related to vomiting that can result from drunkenness. We must not forget that drunk people are more prone to fall or get punched, which could damage teeth. Finally, alcohol dehydrates with the well-known consequences that this has for our mouth.

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