Dental health is probably the last thing cocaine users think about when they rub the drug on their gums or snort it through their noses.
But the gradual, damaging effects of chronic drug use will be nearly impossible to ignore when they one day look in the mirror and see stained, rotting, discolored teeth looking back at them. Some of their once-pearly whites may be broken off or missing. A less-than-stellar smile is a red flag of a health problem and a possible hit to self-esteem and self-image.
Cocaine, like many other drugs, ruins smiles and wreaks havoc on users’ teeth and gums, sometimes permanently. Personal hygiene usually falls by the wayside when addiction is in the picture. All of a person’s time, energy, and focus goes into feeding their habit, so little, if any, thought is given to their health.That means things like regular dental check-ups, which include X-rays, cleanings, and cavity fillings, fall behind, and problems—some of them preventable— end up becoming bigger issues.
Cocaine, a strong stimulant, can deplete the body of the essential vitamins and minerals it needs to maintain healthy teeth.
Here’s a brief overview of how cocaine affects drug users’ teeth and gums.
- Dry mouth. Dry mouth is when the mouth’s salivary glands are not working properly. Saliva, which is 98 percent water, is needed to clean teeth, help break down food, and perform other functions. Chronic cocaine use can cut down on the amount of saliva produced, which significantly increases the possibility of developing tooth decay.
- Tooth decay. The acidity of cocaine, whether it is in powdered form or solid rock form (crack cocaine), can mix with saliva and coat the teeth with an acidic solution that breaks down the protective enamel on the teeth.
- Brittle teeth. Cocaine can make users clench or grind their teeth, which eventually weakens the teeth to the point where they wear down and break. Clenching and grinding can also cause jaw pain.
- Nutritional deficiencies. Cocaine, a strong stimulant, can deplete the body of the essential vitamins and minerals it needs to maintain healthy teeth. It suppresses appetite, so people aren’t getting any nutrients that can be obtained from food if no food is eaten. People who use cocaine may benefit from supplements, the B vitamins, and Vitamin C.
- Palatal perforation. Users who snort cocaine risk damaging the tissue between the nose and the roof of the mouth, the area known as the palate. When the substance is inhaled through the nose, the blood vessels in the nasal cavity narrow. Over time, a hole can form from such use and make it hard to talk or eat and drink. This condition is known as palatal perforation.
- Ulcers. Rubbing cocaine on and over the gums (known as gingivae), which causes a numbing sensation, can cause ulceration of the gums and the underlying bone. These mouth sores are painful and can become infected. Spreading the drug on the gums also causes gums to recede.
Chronic gingivitis, which causes irritation, redness, swelling, and periodontitis, which damages soft oral tissues and destroys the bone that supports the teeth, are other dental diseases that can result from frequent cocaine use.
Drug Users Have Fewer Teeth, Study Finds
A 2017 report of 28 previous dental studies from places around the globe found that people who have a cannabis or cocaine habit have 3.5 fewer teeth than those who do not, because the drug erodes the gums. According to a Daily Mail article, researchers reviewed data of nearly 4,100 people who had substance use disorders from using various drugs.
The study also found that people with an addiction have more tooth decay than the general population and are less likely to visit a dentist who can check for signs of decay, disease, and other ailments.
Ready to End Cocaine Addiction Today?
Poor oral health that results from drug use is a red flag that drug addiction is under way. Cocaine affects drug users’ teeth and gums in invasive and sometimes irreversible ways. Pathway to Hope can help you find you or your loved one end cocaine dependence and find a way back to sobriety.
Call our 24-hour helpline at (844) 557-8575, and one of our call agents will assist you immediately with what you need. Get answers today to questions you have about cocaine addiction treatment, including how the detox process works and the medications used. Take your life back from addiction and begin your recovery today.