Lifestyle Risks – Drugs

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Drugs of all descriptions, whether they be vitamins or natural remedies, prescription medications or illegal drugs, can cause an imbalance in your mouth that can subsequently lead to dental problems.

Prescription Medications, Vitamins and Natural Remedies

Some prescribed or over the counter medications can cause dental erosion. Dental erosion is the gradual “wearing away” or “washing away” of the protective enamel layer (and as the process progresses the sensitive dentine layer) that occurs from being exposed to acids. Dental erosion may occur in people taking medications either because the medication itself is acidic or because the medication causes a “dry mouth”. A “dry mouth” can occur as a side effect of medications where they cause a decrease in saliva production, which means that your natural defence against acid attack is reduced and therefore compromised. Some of the medications that can either directly cause erosion or cause a dry mouth are:

  • Chewable vitamin tablets (including the sugar-free varieties)
  • Antacids
  • Anti-allergy medications
  • Frequent use of aspirin
  • Liquid iron supplements
  • Some asthma medications
  • Some cough and cold medications
  • Some cardiovascular medications
  • Some antidepressants and antipsychotics
  • Sedatives
  • Central acting analgesics e.g. codeine

This list is not exhaustive, so it is important to advise your Medland Dentist if you are taking any medications including over the counter or natural remedies. Your dentist can inform you whether the medicines you take may cause dental problems, and if so, how to manage it.

Illegal Drugs

The regular use of illegal drugs can also cause significant tooth damage amongst other problems.

  • Cannabis – This drug can cause a dry mouth and can increase the risk of gum disease. Much like cigarette smoke, the smoke can also lead to oral cancer.
  • Cocaine – Users sometimes rub this drug over their gums which causes ulceration of the gums, so much so that the bone underneath can become exposed. When cocaine mixes with saliva, it creates an acidic solution that can cause dental erosion. Cocaine and crack cocaine also cause a dry mouth which further increases the risk of both erosion and dental decay. This drug will often cause the user to grind their teeth. This grinding combined with the softening of the enamel caused by dental erosion can cause the teeth to wear down severely, chip and even break.
  • Ecstasy – The side effects of this drug also include teeth grinding, jaw clenching and dry mouth.
  • Heroin – Users of this drug can crave sweet foods which can increase the risk of tooth decay especially as users often neglect their oral hygiene. Heroin also has the side effects of teeth grinding and dry mouth.
  • Methamphetamine – Use of this drug causes severe and rapid tooth decay. The widespread damage caused by this drug is so distinctive that the dental profession has coined the phrase “meth mouth” to describe the extensive side effects of this drug. Methamphetamine is highly acidic and eats the tooth enamel. Like the other drugs above, the other side effects are dry mouth, teeth grinding and jaw clenching.

In addition to the dental side effects caused directly by the above drugs, drug users can neglect their hygiene, diet and dental care which will exacerbate the dental effects of the drugs they are taking.