Drugs put people in a short-lived state of euphoria, bliss, increase performance or help relax. But in the long run, they leave serious damage to the body – including teeth and gums. Therefore, dentists should be sensitive to signs.
The consequences of the consumption of cocaine, heroin, crystal meth, cannabis and Co. for oral health is devastating – not least because of the high risk of addiction. On the one hand, the drugs act directly on teeth and gums. On the other hand, consumer behavior changes as a result of substance abuse: Oral hygiene often plays a minor role and is clearly neglected.
However, not only illegal substances but also legally available substances such as alcohol, tobacco or e-cigarettes can not be ruled out in terms of health risks, even if the effects are of a different nature.
Risks of legal substances
It has long been known that the combination of alcohol and tobacco increases the risk of oral squamous cell carcinoma. The same goes for hookahs, which release many times more smoke volume and release heavy metals in addition to nicotine and nitrosamines. Despite the lack of long-term studies to date, e-cigarettes have already been shown to have pro-inflammatory effects. Several studies also show that the risk of periodontitis is associated with increasing alcohol consumption.
Crystal meth has several dangers
Crystal meth, in fact N-methyl-alpha-methylphenethylamine, causes damage to the oral cavity from which tissues and teeth never recover. Ammonia and red phosphorus contained in the synthetic drug directly attack the tooth enamel. In addition to tooth decay, there is also damage to the tissue in the gums and facial muscles. The teeth become prone to caries, especially frontal caries. Many consumers experience a high craving for sweets and sugary drinks as a side effect. Teeth that are already very susceptible to cavities in the teeth quickly become damaged, rot and become brittle. In addition, salivation is inhibited so that removal and protection against bacteria can no longer be provided. Bruxism and neglected oral hygiene due to a depressed and unstable psyche and general lethargy aggravate the situation. Due to the detrimental effect on tissues, the facial muscles deteriorate even after prolonged ingestion. The skin and mucous membranes lose their ability to heal themselves as the entire immune system is weakened.
Dentist Howard Farran showed on his Facebook page the consequences of years of cocaine consumption for the patient’s mouth. The images of the perforated palate were not just disturbing. They also aim to raise awareness of the important issues of drug use and dental health.
Cannabis: Stoners brush their teeth less often
A Swiss study revealed that cannabis users have significantly more treated or diseased teeth, according to zahnrat.de. Here, too, neglect of oral hygiene in combination with an increased need for sugary drinks and food plays the biggest role. In addition, cannabis also inhibits the flow of saliva – which also promotes caries formation.
Hole in mouth from cocaine
The first signs of cocaine abuse are bad breath, smack or burns and sores on the lips caused by damaged crack tubes. The most characteristic result obtained by sniffing the substance is a perforation of the palate in the form of a large black hole. Affected people (80 percent women) are restricted from eating and talking. In everyday life, they often try to hide the hole with chewing gum, white bread or the like – a strategy that obviously does not work at the dentist. In addition, decay of the nasal mucosa and nasal septum as well as bruxism, loss of tooth enamel, cavities in the teeth and gum damage are possible consequences of cocaine consumption.
What role can the dentist play?
Signs of substance abuse, whether legal or illegal, should be taken seriously and monitored. Information about risks and consequential damage to teeth and gums is also an important part of the treatment. The dentist could also make everyday oral hygiene a topic again and again, as well as give recommendations for professional hygiene measures.
Photo (symbolic image): Siniehina – stock.adobe.com