Cocaine can have detrimental effects on your whole body, including your oral health.
Cocaine use, especially when rubbed on the gums or smoked as crack cocaine, can erode the gums and teeth over time.
Here’s what to know about how cocaine use can affect your teeth and mouth.
- temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain or discomfort
- erosion of tooth enamel
- erosion of dentin, which is beneath the enamel
- acidic saliva
- increased teeth grinding, called bruxism
- lesions in the mouth
- gingivitis, also known as gum disease
- teeth falling out
- deterioration of the mucous membranes in the mouth
- chronic sinusitis
- hole in the septum or palate
Some people also rub cocaine on their teeth or gums, which can erode tooth enamel. It increases the risk of tooth decay and cavities.
Researchers also found that people who used crack cocaine visited the dentist less often than people in the control group.
Cocaine use also appears to damage the gums.
After stopping cocaine use, the gum lesions disappeared completely within 2 weeks to 18 months.
You’re not alone
If you want to change your relationship with cocaine, you don’t have to go through it alone. When you’re ready, you can consider seeking support from a drug treatment program.
You can ask a doctor for resources or reach out to the U.S. government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
You can find programs in your area with SAMHSA’s online treatment locator or call SAMSHA at 800-662-HELP (4357).
Other oral issues that may develop from cocaine use include:
Headaches, jaw pain, and other oral health issues
Doctors sometimes prescribe medications to reduce cocaine withdrawal symptoms, such as antidepressants, lithium, and levodopa. These medications can cause dry mouth, alter taste perception, or cause involuntary facial movements.
Palate and nasal cavity deterioration
Chronic cocaine use is
In severe cases, it can cause breathing or eating difficulties.
Dental anesthetic issues
Cocaine use may also have severe consequences when combined with dental anesthetics during dental procedures.
Cocaine blocks nerve activity, similar to how local dental anesthetics like lidocaine, xylocaine, and antiacne work.
When a local anesthetic is used in a dental procedure soon after cocaine use, it can cause a spike in blood pressure. This likely happens due to the drug’s vasoconstrictive properties, which amplify the body’s response to the adrenaline released by dental anesthetics.
Experiments on animals also showed that combining cocaine with a local anesthetic can be potentially fatal. Combining cocaine with lidocaine can also raise the risk of convulsions.
Before any dental procedures, always tell your dentist about any substance use, including illegal drugs, prescribed medications, and supplements.
If you’re concerned that a loved one is using cocaine, you can learn more about the other signs of cocaine use (and how to help) in this article.
Treatment can significantly improve oral health issues from cocaine use. In some cases, treatment can even reverse any problems.
You can start by finding a dentist you trust and telling them about your substance use. Due to doctor-patient confidentiality, it’s safe to disclose information about substance use. You will not get into legal trouble.
Together, you can find a treatment regimen that works for you. This may include:
- restorative dental procedures, like fillings, crowns, or dental implants
- gum disease treatment, which may involve scaling or root planing
- regular dental cleanings and check-ups
You can also follow general preventive care steps for oral health, such as:
- stopping substance use
- quitting smoking, if you smoke
- avoiding or limiting alcohol
- avoiding or limiting acidic, sugary drinks, like soda or energy drinks
- avoiding or limiting foods high in sugar
- staying hydrated and limiting caffeine
- brushing teeth twice a day and flossing at least once a day
Cocaine use can lead to several oral health issues over time. These issues can be corrected with restorative dental treatments and starting treatment for substance use disorders.
Limiting or avoiding high sugar foods and drinks as well as brushing and flossing every day can also prevent dental issues down the road.