Drugs and alcohol abuse can do some terrible things to you — they can wreck your ability to hold a job or be in a relationship, make you mentally incoherent, destroy your fertility, harm your skin and lungs, and give you cirrhosis of the liver. One common area of serious harm is often overlooked, though — the teeth.
The attack comes from every direction
Alcohol and drug abuse in general do harm the teeth– being acidic in nature, these substances can wear off the enamel. They have effects that go far beyond the immediate corrosion of the enamel, though.
Dry mouth: Drugs and alcohol have the effect of slowing down saliva production. Not only does dryness cause bad breath, it causes dental deterioration, as well. Saliva has an important function in keeping the teeth clean. It washes away food particles, brings basic antibiotic action, and neutralizes the corrosive acids produced by bacteria. When the mouth’s supply of saliva runs dry, bacterial action surges, and dental rot sets in.
Tooth grinding: Many drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy have the effect of making users clench and grind their teeth with terrible pressure when they are high. Severe grinding can cause misalignment as well as serious enamel damage.
Poor personal hygiene: People on drugs are often too poorly organized to be able to take care of their health. Dental hygiene is one of the first hygiene habits to go out the window. This in itself hastens dental decay.
Both drug use and alcohol use affect the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Deficient in calcium, users begin to suffer from poor bone and dental health.
Then, there is meth mouth
Methamphetamine is unique in the catastrophic effects that it has on the teeth. The effects are so unmistakable; doctors have a special name for it — meth mouth. When meth user’s show up for a dental cleaning appointment, doctors can tell right away — their teeth have a soft and pulpy quality. Methamphetamine users see their teeth simply drop out of their sockets.
Researchers aren’t completely certain of the mechanism by which methamphetamine exacts its horrible toll on the dental health of users. While meth users do clench their teeth, suffer from oral dryness and poor oral care, an additional problem could be the main culprit — they crave gallons of soda pop, a substance that has the effect of softening teeth.
Surprisingly, there is little pain
While drug use can reduce teeth to black stumps in a matter of months, patients report little pain. Drug use makes them unaware of it. Dentists across the country have seen business soar, especially in areas in the Midwest that have been ravaged by drugs.
The only way out is to stop using drugs and alcohol. Users who aren’t ready to take that step, though, can help their teeth simply by brushing twice a day.