While many expect to see physical health complications arise after a prolonged period of substance abuse, many forget to take into account the effects that substance abuse can have on oral health. Here is a look at what substance abuse can do to your mouth, gums, and teeth.


Alcohol contributes to an increase in tooth decay, as many alcoholic drinks contain high levels of sugar. Over-consumption of alcoholic drinks, therefore, will demineralize teeth and actually weaken tooth enamel. This can lead to serious gum and tooth problems in those who abuse alcohol. Binge drinking works to compound these effects even more, as binge drinking is often accompanied by vomiting, which in turn causes acid build-up in the mouth.


Stimulants like cocaine, amphetamines, and ecstasy can have extremely harmful effects on the mouth as well. In general, stimulants tend to cause users to clench and grind their teeth while under the influence, and this can actually lead to wearing down, loosening, or even cracking teeth. Using stimulants also often results in dry mouth, which reduces the mouth’s ability to flush away food particles with saliva. Those who use stimulants also tend to use while consuming sugary drinks such as soft drinks, energy drinks, and alcohol, and these drinks are known to wear down tooth enamel because of their sugar content. When dry mouth is combined with these sugary drinks, the harmful effects of these drinks is amplified because the mouth contains very little saliva, which normally helps dilute sugar levels.


Both snorting and smoking cocaine can leave you with significant deficiencies in vitamin C and calcium—both of which are essential for maintaining strong teeth. And since cocaine can also reduce appetite, this can mean that your body does not see levels of these nutrients restored once cocaine strips them away. This nutritional deficiency can lead to gingivitis, tooth decay, bone loss, and tooth loss.


Methamphetamine has many of the same effects on the mouth that cocaine does. In addition, methamphetamine also happens to be highly acidic and therefore attacks tooth enamel. Many dental hygienists uses the term “meth mouth” to refer to the discoloration, rotting, and breaking of teeth that those who use methamphetamine are so prone to.


The most common tooth- and mouth-related side effects of ecstasy use include tooth grinding, jaw clenching, and dry mouth—all of which can wreak havoc on oral health.


Those who use heroin tend to crave sugary foods, and as a result, heroin use is often accompanied by increased tooth decay. Heroin, like stimulants, can also cause dry mouth and tooth grinding. Heroin addiction can also cause a person no longer care about oral hygiene, meaning that oral health can decline very quickly when you’re addicted to heroin.