The Long-Term Effects of Drug and Alcohol Abuse on Dental Health

July 28, 2020

The Long-Term Effects of Drug and Alcohol Abuse on Dental Health
The Long-Term Effects of Drug and Alcohol Abuse on Dental Health

You probably know that substance abuse can have negative impacts on your physical health. It can result in cancer, cardiovascular problems, lung and liver disease, reduced cognitive function, and death via overdose. However, substances can also have a significant impact on your dental and oral health.


Tooth Decay


Tooth decay is one of the leading dental problems caused by substance abuse. Alcohol has a high sugar content, which erodes teeth and increases plaque buildup. The abuse of stimulant drugs such as methamphetamine and opiate drugs such as heroin also results in sugar-related tooth decay which is why getting daily doses of fluoride is so important . These drugs frequently result in cravings for sugary foods. Alcohol and cocaine also have high acidity and can cause acid reflux. Acids erode the enamel on your teeth, leading to increased tooth decay. Another side effect of drug abuse is dry mouth, which decreases the amount of saliva in your mouth. Without saliva to protect your teeth, they are more vulnerable to acids. People often consider marijuana to be a low-risk drug, but it can also cause dry mouth and acid reflux. Also, it can lead to vomiting, which brings up stomach acids that erode enamel over time.


Damage to the Jaw


Decay extends beyond the teeth to the rest of the mouth. The abuse of drugs, especially stimulants such as cocaine, club drugs, and methamphetamine, or opiates such as heroin, can result in anxious behaviors such as grinding your teeth. Aside from cracking your teeth, this action can strain and damage your jaw and gums.


Gum Disease


Substances in contact with the gums such as powdered cocaine or smoked substances can lead to rot or disease of the gums and cause your teeth to fall out. Also, the loss of blood flow to the mouth and roots from methamphetamine abuse can cause further damage to the gums.




Beyond leading to erosion and decay, substance use results in infections. Contact with harmful substances can result in sores in the mouth. They are always painful, and they have a high probability of becoming infected. Injections of drugs such as heroin can also lead to infections in the mouth.


Untreated Cavities

Substance abuse disorders can completely take over your priorities so that you stop paying attention to your health, including dental hygiene. You may stop brushing your teeth entirely and neglect scheduling dentist appointments. Substances such as opiates can distract you from pain and increase your pain tolerance, so you might not even notice cavities to get them treated.


Malnutrition-Related Diseases


People struggling with substance abuse disorders often do not eat properly or forget to eat altogether, so you may develop deficiencies due to a lack of proper nutrition. Minerals such as calcium also protect your teeth. If you become nutrient-deficient, your teeth may be more susceptible to weakness, erosion, and falling out.


Cosmetic Problems


Many substances that are taken orally, especially alcohol and methamphetamine, can stain your teeth brown or yellow. Although discoloration may not directly impact physical health, it is detrimental to financial and mental health. Some employers might be biased against obviously substance-related discoloration, making it more challenging to get a job. Discolored teeth may also cause low self-esteem if you are already insecure about your appearance.




Substance abuse significantly compromises your oral health and can lead to many unpleasant complications, such as long-lasting difficulty consuming solid food. It can also have life-threatening effects. When substances come into contact with the roof of the mouth and the gums, particularly when you smoke a substance or apply powdered cocaine to these areas, they can cause cancer in the mouth, throat, and lungs.


Protecting Your Dental Health


Even if you struggle with substance abuse, it is not too late to save your dental health. However, seeking treatment as early as possible can help prevent further dental decay (or risk of cancer) and improve your general dental health. In addition, seeking treatment early can help improve your overall health by mitigating the damage done to your lungs, liver, heart, finances, and relationships. The mantra here is: the earlier, the better. In fact, there are treatment centers such as Launch Centers in Los Angeles that specialize in the treatment of young adults. Treatment doesn't happen much earlier than that.


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