Drugs – Their Impact On Your Oral Health

With many people taking ‘recreational’ drugs, our Wickford dentists look at how this can adversely affect your oral health.

Concerned womanWe have written a number of times about the effects of alcohol on our teeth and gums. Whilst this is the most widely used ‘mind altering’ substance in the UK, it is certainly not the only one.

Whatever our own moral opinion is about the taking of drugs, figures show that just under 10% of the population take drugs from time to time on a recreational basis; some of these being Class A drugs. This figure almost doubles when applied to the 16-24 age group.

There is a big debate to be had about drugs and policies around them, both medical and criminal, and that is not within our remit. With so many people using them though, we thought it was important that our Cygnet Dental patients were aware of the potential harm that some commonly used drugs can do to your oral health.


Just a brief mention here as we have covered this before in previous blogs. Alcohol is widely used but even on a recreational basis, will increase the risk of gum disease and oral cancers.


For those who use cannabis in a ‘joint’, i.e. along with tobacco, the risks of the tobacco have to be included in our assessment. Gum disease and mouth cancers are much more likely if you smoke. If you must use cannabis, it is better to avoid the use of tobacco with it. Cannabis can also cause users to have a very dry mouth, which as we know can have an impact on our oral health. Dry mouth syndrome is a common cause of gum disease and whilst alcohol and cigarettes can also have this effect, cannabis is a major contributor too.

There is also the problem of our ability to make informed choices when we are ‘stoned’. Getting the ‘munchies’ can mean that we eat unhealthily and may also neglect our personal hygiene including not cleaning our teeth.

Ecstasy (MDMA)

This particular drug hit the media headlines during the ‘rave’ years but is still used quite widely amongst club and party goers especially. Despite its popularity, it has been responsible for a number of deaths; many of which occurred due to severe dehydration and heat exhaustion. It is this severe dehydration which is a major problem for our gum health especially. Periodontal problems are likely to be common in ecstasy users.

Another problem which often arises in users is that of bruxism. Grinding the teeth together quite aggressively is a common side effect of this drug. Even with the healthiest and strongest of teeth, there is a significant risk of both enamel erosion and broken or shattered teeth if you use ecstasy.


Another relatively widely used ‘party’ drug. Like ecstasy, cocaine users have a tendency to grind their teeth together aggressively causing erosion of the enamel and potentially broken teeth. This grinding can also lead to a number of jaw problems such as TMJ. Cocaine is also very acidic itself, which adds to the potential erosion of the tooth enamel.

Whilst this drug is commonly ‘sniffed’, some users apply it by rubbing it into the gums. This is likely to lead to mouth sores and infections.


Heroin and other opiates are extremely addictive and, whatever your views on others drugs, should be avoided at all costs. Although a small minority of users may be able to use it ‘recreationally’, this is not a risk worth taking and you may find yourself soon addicted to it and suffering some of the many medical problems associated with it as well.

From a dental perspective, using heroin is a disaster for your oral health. Along with symptoms common to some of the drugs previously mentioned, such as a dry mouth and bruxism, its users often crave very sweet foods and a high sugar intake is very likely. Add to this the lifestyle that many users have and major tooth loss is very likely indeed.  Heroin users are also prone to mental health issues sometimes associated with this drug. In addition to the problems mentioned then, regular professional dental supervision is unlikely indeed, making the problems even worse.

Whatever your reasons for thinking about taking drugs, it is definitely worth stopping and thinking about it before you do. Whilst some people may do so and seemingly have no ill effects (although some health issues may not manifest immediately and some, like psychosis may materialise years later), you may not be one of the lucky ones and, as you can see above, there are some serious implications for your oral health as well as your overall health.

If you do take drugs and are a patient of the Cygnet Dental Practice, it is important that you let us know this when we discuss your medical history, prior to any treatment. This is for your own safety and we ask for your honesty.

Our Wickford dental practice offers both NHS and private dental care and can be contacted for appointments on 01268 733078.