Substance Abuse and Oral Health: How Drugs and Alcohol Impact Your Mouth


Your mouth is the gateway to your body. What you put in it affects every single one of your body’s cells. Most of us know that drugs can damage your body, but did you know that drug and alcohol abuse has a specific impact on your mouth and overall oral health?

Your oral health can be severely affected by smoking tobacco.  Smoking dries out the palate and tongue, which irritates the gums and teeth. This can lead to bleeding gums, cavities, and even tooth loss, Additional side-effects include bad breath,  discoloration of teeth and leukoplakia, a malignant plaque that appears on the tissue of the mouth and tongue. However, these side-effects are not just limited to smoking cigarettes. Smoking hookah or marijuana also creates gum and tooth irritation that can lead to serious dental problems.

Smokeless tobacco also comes with serious oral health concerns. Chewing tobacco typically contains sand and grit that can wear down your teeth and irritate gums. Leukoplakia is common for smokeless tobacco users, and there is a higher rate for developing oral cancers, esophageal cancer and pancreatic cancer.

The abuse of drugs like methamphetamines are also detrimental to your oral health. “Meth Mouth” is characterized by broken, discolored and rotting teeth. Methamphetamines dry out the mouth, allowing the mouth’s acids to eat away tooth enamel and cause cavities. Meth users also tend to compulsively grind their teeth, binge on sugary foods and drinks, and neglect to brush or floss for long periods of time.1 Methamphetamines can destroy your mouth in less than 4 months!

Like drug addition, alcohol abuse has a severe impact on your oral health as well. Alcohol is very drying to the mouth, and many alcoholic drinks contain large amounts of sugar. Alcohol abusers often have a fungal infection called candida. This is an infection of the mouth, but it can also spread to other parts of the body. This infection is difficult to cure and usually requires both medical treatment and diet change.

Abusing drugs and alcohol is not only dangerous to your oral health, it is also dangerous to your overall health. Be aware of the consequences of substance abuse, and make the decision to live a healthy lifestyle.

For more information on how drugs and alcohol impact your life and body, visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse website and participate in National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week January 22–28, 2018.

Source:  1.How Meth Destroys the Body, PBS, Frontline. Retrieved from