How Illegal Drugs Damage the Teeth
The use of certain illegal drugs is worse for your teeth than candy, sodas, sugar, or poor dental hygiene. The effects of drug use on dental health is so devastating that in many cases the only remedy is to pull all of the patient's teeth out and replace them with dental implants. Tooth removal is only done in more severe cases, but even minimal drug use can cause lasting dental problems that are costly, time consuming, and painful to fix.
The main way that drug use can harm teeth is by causing dry mouth. Dry mouth is a side effect of both legal and illegal drugs, but because of the addictive nature of illegal drugs, dry mouth tends to be much more devastating for those users. Saliva is one the main tools that our bodies use to fight tooth decay. Dry mouth is a condition in which the flow and production of saliva is reduced, leaving the mouth dry. This prevents saliva from keeping the mouth clean. The enzymes in saliva help prevent bacteria growth in our mouths. When someone experiences dry mouth for a prolonged period of time, they leave themselves very susceptible to bacteria build up that causes tooth decay. Saliva also helps fight against the mouth acids that cause tooth erosion, and it contains the ingredients needed for the process of re-mineralization, which repairs teeth that are damaged from acids.
Healthy gums are very important to good oral health. Various drugs have a damaging effect on the gums. People that use illegal drugs often develop Inflammation, ulceration, and bleeding of the gums. Gingivitis and gum disease commonly affect those with a short habitual drug habit. These diseases lead to tooth loss, and in some cases even heart disease, if left untreated. Some drugs can even cause gingival hyperplasia where the gum tissue thickens and grows over the teeth.
Cocaine is particularly harmful to the gums because users often rub it into their mouths, which causes ulcerations to the gums, and bone and enamel erosion. Enamel damage is quite common with most illegal drugs. The acidic nature of drugs results in erosion, and bacteria have an easier time attacking teeth once the enamel is damaged. Cocaine and other uppers also cause teeth grinding and jaw clenching, which wears down the teeth and gums.
One drug that is particularly notorious for its effects on the mouth is methamphetamines. The effects of methamphetamines are so destructive that it has even earned its own name: meth mouth. Meth users experience the perfect storm of problems in which all the side effects mentioned in this article develop. In addition to dry mouth, gum disease, tooth erosion, and gum recession, the vessels in the user's gums shrink up, reducing the blood supply. This causes the tissues to break down, and eventually these tissues stop recovering from the shrinking of the vessels and lack of blood flow, and die. This causes the gums and teeth to rot, and the only solution is to pull the teeth out altogether.
While there are many physically destructive side effects of habitual drug use that are unavoidable, some of the resulting problems involves neglect. The nature of drug abuse causes people to ignore many aspects of their life, and one of the first to be ignored is personal hygiene. As with anybody who neglects their teeth, the damage is severe, but when combined with the effects of drug use, dental degradation is all but guaranteed. The best solution is prevention because once the effects of abuse set in, it can be difficult to remedy the damage. Patients can undergo restorative and cosmetic dentistry treatments to improve the health and appearance of teeth after drug use, but these procedures are costly and can take a lot of time.
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