(Il)legal substances – kryptonite for teeth and gums – ZWP online – the news portal for the dental industry

Intoxicants put people in a short-term state of euphoria, bliss, increase performance or help to relax. But in the long term, they leave serious damage in 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. because oral health is devastating – not least because of the high risk of addiction. On the one hand, the substances act directly on the teeth and gums. On the other hand, the consumer’s behavior changes as a result of substance abuse: Oral hygiene then often plays a subordinate role and is clearly neglected.

But not only illegal drugs, but also legally available drugs such as alcohol, tobacco or e-cigarettes cannot be excluded in terms of health risks, even if the effects are of a different kind.

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 applies to 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 periodontal disease is linked to increasing alcohol consumption.

Crystal meth has several dangers

Crystal meth, actually 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 dentine breakdown, there is also damage to the tissue in the gums and facial muscles. The teeth become prone to caries, especially incisor caries. Many consumers experience a high craving for sweets and drinks with high sugar content as a side effect. Teeth, which are already highly susceptible to cavities, quickly become damaged, rot and become brittle. In addition, the production of saliva is inhibited, so that removal and protection against bacteria can no longer be provided. Bruxism and neglected oral hygiene as a result of a depressed and unstable psyche and general lethargy worsen the situation. Due to the harmful effect on tissue, the facial muscles also deteriorate after prolonged consumption. The skin and mucous membranes lose their ability to heal themselves as the entire immune system weakens.

Dentist Howard Farran showed on his Facebook page the consequences of years of cocaine use on 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, smudges or burns, and sores on the lips caused by damaged crack pipes. The most characteristic result obtained by snorting the drug is a perforation of the palate in the form of a large black hole. Affected people (80 percent women) are limited in eating and speaking. In everyday life, they often try to hide the hole with chewing gum, white bread or the like – a strategy that obviously doesn’t work at the dentist’s. In addition, deterioration of the nasal mucous membranes and nasal septum as well as bruxism, loss of tooth enamel, tooth decay and gum damage are possible consequences of cocaine use.

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 over and over again, as well as give recommendations for professional hygiene measures.

Photo (symbolic image): Siniehina – stock.adobe.com

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