Recreational drug users are being warned they risk serious and irreversible damage to their teeth if they continue to dabble in the dangerous pastime.
Dentists have issued the warning ahead of Dental Health Week, starting Monday 5th August, after noticing an increase in oral health issues in long-term drug-using patients.
Dr Kristina Cain says she’s treating patients now aged in their 30s, who started using drugs in their 20s, for major and expensive dental work.
“They’re not drug addicts, but they have been using drugs in various amounts over varying degrees of time, and the damaging results are now showing up in their mouths,” Dr Cain said.
“We hear the common messages during Dental Health Week about brushing twice daily, flossing, a healthy diet with limited sugar and regularly visiting the dentist, but what about the important messages that aren’t spoken about? We need to warn high risk groups – like drug users,” she said.
“When they were in their teens or 20s, they were having a great time travelling or clubbing and dabbling in drugs, now they’re paying for their recklessness,” she said.
“Some end up with horrendous on-going teeth issues like fast moving-decay where root canal work is required; weak, brittle and cracked teeth; and serious changes to mouth biology from drug use where bacterial issues can cause gum disease and even cancer.”
Drugs with a high risk to oral health include:
- Methamphetamine: causes severe tooth decay in a short time. It is highly acidic and attacks tooth enamel. Other side effects include dry mouth which increases tooth decay risk, teeth grinding and jaw clenching.
- Ecstasy or MDMA: side effects include tooth grinding, jaw clenching and dry mouth.
- Cocaine: users sometimes rub cocaine over their gums, causing ulceration of gums and underlying bone. Cocaine mixed with saliva creates an acidic solution that erodes tooth enamel and exposes the underlying bony tissue to decay-causing bacteria. Cocaine can also cause dry mouth and grinding.
- Heroin: people who use heroin tend to crave sweet foods, which can increase tooth decay if dental hygiene is neglected. Heroin can also cause dry mouth and grinding.
- Cannabis: can cause dry mouth and lead to an increased risk of gum problems. Cannabis smoke can cause oral cancer.
- Alcohol: most alcohol is acidic so regular intake can cause dry mouth and tooth erosion.
- Tobacco: smoking can cause gum disease and poor gum healing as well as an increased risk of cancers, including oral cancer.
Dr Cain said the issue for people currently using drugs, was one of awareness: “because you will pay for it later.”
“Patients are coming in telling me they need to get their teeth fixed and many don’t have the money to do it,” Dr Cain said.
“Suddenly they are starting to notice the change in their aesthetics with holes everywhere,” she said.
“There is no way to rebuild the strength of the tooth once it is damaged, you will never get the quality of the natural enamel back.”
“Your mouth is the opening to internal digestive system – so you need to treat it with care.”
Dr Cain said professional treatment depended on the particular drug and its effects on your teeth and gums, but could include:
- Fluoride: strengthens teeth and reduces risk of decay. The dentist can apply topical fluoride to the surface of the teeth. Fluoride tablets or mouthwashes can be used at home.
- Decayed teeth: will need dental fillings and possibly restorative work such as crowns.
- Badly decayed teeth: may need to be removed. Bridges, dental implants or partial or full dentures can be recommended.
- Veneers: can improve the look of your mouth and smile.
Dental Health Week begins this Monday, and all Australians are being reminded of the importance of maintaining good oral health.
Notable statistics coming from the Australian Dental Association’s major annual report card include:
- 65% of Australians haven’t seen a dentist in the last two years.
- 50% of Australians brush their teeth only once-a-day.
- Nearly 40% never floss or clean between their teeth.
- 73% of young people (14-18 years) are consuming too much sugar.
For more information visit: https://www.ada.org.au/Dental-Health-Week/Home
About Dr Kristina Cain
Dr Kristina Cain completed her studies at the University of Queensland and has over 23 years’ experience as a dental practitioner. She has worked in private practices around Australia and enjoys treating patients from all walks of life.
Dr Cain has a special interest and flair for cosmetic enhancements, implant crowns, crown and bridgework, QST (quick straight teeth) and especially facial aesthetics. Formerly a trainer for the Australasian Academy of Dento-Facial Aesthetics (AADFA), Kristina is now a Fellow of the International Academy of Dento-Facial Aesthetics (IADFE) in New York, USA. She is also a Dental Consultant on the Dental Advisory Panel for Experien to assist other dentists. Kristina strongly believes that the prevention of dental and facial degeneration is the key to happy and healthy patients.
For more information visit Refresh Dental Spa: www.refreshdental.com.au
Phone: 0419 645 650