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the Australian Dental Association
Written by the Australian Dental Association, Sep 12, 2022
Fact Checked

Illicit drugs are associated with a host of physiological and behavioural effects which can affect the health of the mouth. In general, effects from illicit drugs can include tooth grinding, a decreased production of saliva causing a dry mouth, tooth decay, and gum disease.

Marijuana

Marijuana/cannabis use can cause an increase in appetite, as well as cause a decrease in the amount of saliva in the mouth causing a dry mouth. Users may also have poorer oral hygiene. Combined, these factors can increase your risk of developing tooth decay. Smoking marijuana is also associated with an increased risk of developing oral cancer.

Methamphetamine

Regular users of methamphetamine (meth or ice) often experience large amounts of tooth decay. This is often called 'meth mouth'. This tooth decay is due to the drug’s ability to decrease the amount of saliva in the mouth, cause cravings for sugary and carbonated drinks, tooth grinding or clenching and long periods of poor oral hygiene. Dental treatment should be delayed a minimum of six hours after you last take methamphetamine.

Severe tooth decay due to the use of illicit drugs. Getty Images

Cocaine

Cocaine use can cause users to grind or clench their teeth which can result in the teeth wearing down. Rubbing cocaine directly on the gums can result in wear of the gums (gum recession) or ulcers. Dental treatment should be delayed for six to 24 hours after the last intake of cocaine.

Heroin

Regular users of heroin and methadone can experience large amounts of tooth decay and gum disease because of decreased saliva production and generally poor oral hygiene.

Summary

If you're a regular user of recreational drugs or haven't seen your dentist in a while, make an appointment with your local dentist. Make sure you tell your dentist about your alcohol or smoking intake, as well as any drugs you are taking or have recently taken. Also tell your dentist about any medications you are taking or have recently taken, including prescription, over-the-counter and herbal medications. This way they can give you advice that is specific to the issues you may be experiencing. Use the ADA's Find-A-Dentist search tool to find an ADA member dentist to help you start yourself on a journey to better oral health today.