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Drug Abuse: The Oral Health Kryptonite

It’s February and we’ve all celebrated Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day and even President’s day. So, that’s basically it for February, right? Well…actually it isn’t. February is also National Dental Health Month, making this a great time to promote oral health awareness in both children and adults.

Dental Health Month

Each February, the American Dental Association (ADA) educates us on the habits of good oral hygiene. The ADA recommends we (kids and adults) visit the dentist twice a year in order to make sure all’s well within our mouths.

During your dental checkups, the dentist or hygienist will be able to determine whether you’re brushing and flossing properly and, if not, give you tips to beef up your oral health regimen. This expert input is extremely valuable, especially when it comes to the health of little mouths. Dental problems like gingivitis and cavities affect between 60 to 90 percent of all school-aged kids. In fact, the leading chronic infectious disease among children in the U.S. is tooth decay.

Drugs are a Mouth’s Worst Nightmare

Unfortunately, drugs have terrible effects on the human body…including your teeth and surrounding oral tissues. Generally speaking, people who abuse illegal drugs are more prone to oral health issues. The use of both prescription and illegal drugs can cause – and quickly advance – the decay of tooth enamel.

With continued drug abuse, people often see pearly white teeth turn black in color, a crumbling of the entire tooth structure or even bone infections caused by severe decay. In a majority of these cases, the teeth cannot be saved and must be extracted.

So, let’s look at a few commonly abused drugs and what they can potentially do to ruin that gorgeous smile.

Drugs and Your Teeth

  • Love Drugs: These include your basic “club drugs” like speed or ecstasy. They cause severe tooth decay, jaw-clenching and dry mouth.
  • Heroin: Heroin belongs to the opiate drug family and it has an indirect negative affect on teeth. Heroin actually causes an immense craving for sugars like candy and soft drinks. Thanks to the constant sugar exposure, the protective enamel turns soft from decay.
  • Methamphetamine: The use of this drug causes severe dry mouth and, much like heroin, it sparks a constant craving for sugar. Aside from that, methamphetamine drugs are extremely acidic, creating a detrimental environment for teeth.
  • Cocaine: Cocaine has lethal effects on the body, especially the teeth. Tooth decay is prominent among cocaine abusers for several reasons. For example, use of this drug causes severe dry mouth and increases exposure to cavity-causing bacteria. Cocaine also causes users to clench and grind their teeth, wearing down the surface enamel.

So what’s the bottom line? Well, if you want to show off your healthy and bright smile…don’t do drugs! Let’s face it; no one likes rotten teeth!

Additional Reading: Tooth and Consequences: Alcohol Can Wreck Your Smile

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