A better Medway

Substance misuse and oral health

Substance misuse, particularly methamphetamine, cocaine and opioids, can have negative effects on oral health.  

Following good oral health habits can help to look after teeth.

People who misuse substances are often embarrassed by the condition of their mouths and may have dental phobias.

Dentists will never judge a person, and many will offer support for the fears people may have. 

Dental treatment is also available from a mobile dental unit if someone is experiencing homelessness or recovering from addiction. Find out how to refer someone to the mobile dental unit.

There are a number of ways substance misuse can impact on oral health, for example: 

  • dry mouth. Due to reduced saliva flow in the mouth, dry mouth can lead to an increased risk of dental decay and gum disease
  • tooth decay. Caused by the acid which can erode tooth enamel, leading to dental decay. Many drugs also lead to cravings for sugary sweets and drinks, which also contributes to tooth decay
  • gum disease. Substance misuse can weaken the immune system, making a person more susceptible to gum disease
  • tooth loss. Severe dental decay and gum disease can lead to tooth loss
  • oral cancer. Substance misuse, particularly tobacco use, is a major risk factor for oral cancer
  • teeth grinding and clenching
  • pain. Pain will be masked by the substance misuse but can be extreme when the misuse is stopped
  • sensitive teeth. People who misuse substances are more like to experience tooth decay which can result in sensitive teeth. To protect softened enamel do not brush teeth for one hour after eating or drinking.

Drug abuse and oral health