Substance Use Disorder effects individuals in many ways that society is aware of and working to put action towards, like mental health services and detox/residential services.

However, many times, other aspects of addiction are not recognized until after someone enters their path towards recovery — such as dental care.

Dental Care and Substance Use

In the article “Dental Management of Patients with SUD,” Mara Cuberos et al (1) explain that “SUD has detrimental effects on oral health; Drugs and alcohol negatively impact oral health by inducing a myriad of orofacial conditions including xerostomia, dental caries, periodontal disease, bruxism, pre-cancer and cancer, to name a few,” and goes on to explain that early intervention is typically what will help the most with these dental effects of substance misuse.

Continuous care, including cleanings, check-ups, and extractions of dead tooth matter has been another common treatment for these effects. Most often, there are limited recommendations available for dental professionals on how best to manage patients afflicted with SUD.

How Substance Use Disorder Affects Dental Hygiene

Depending on the substance, effects on hygiene can expedite the deterioration of enamel.

For example, Cocaine, when used intraorally, causes a stark decrease in saliva pH, which increases the number of bacteria in the mouth, as well as in long term use leading to “perforations of the hard palate and nasal septum,” stated by Baghaie et all in the publication Addiction.

According to the World Health Organization’s Global Status report on alcohol and health, long-term alcohol use leads to a predisposition of cancers, as well as the impairment of the immune system. This effect is common amongst other substances, as well, including cannabis, methamphetamine and opioids. Long term use of tobacco increases risks of periodontitis and oral cancers.

Patients currently receiving MAT Services (Medicated Assisted Treatment) and utilize buprenorphine, naloxone, methadone or other medications that are taken sublingually have been advised by dental professionals to rinse their mouths immediately following consumption. Restriction of caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol have also been utilized alongside other dental practices to promote more dental hygiene and health.

Methamphetamine has been the most known substance to cause serious deterioration of the enamel in the oral cavity. The symptoms of what dental professionals have coined “meth mouth,” according to Panpan Wang in the article “Comprehensive dental treatment for ‘meth mouth’: A Case report and literature review,” are poor oral hygiene and upkeep, gingival inflammation, xerostomia and excessive tooth wear. Tooth grinding and clenching, as well as the reduction of saliva production and flow, lead meth users to complete extraction of the teeth and utilization of dentures.

Early intervention, prevention and a knowledgeable dentist have allowed those who are recovering from SUD to maintain their hygiene and even begin their journey through repairing their oral cavity.

Contact University Behavioral Center

University Behavioral Center, located in Orlando, Florida, provides inpatient detox and substance use disorder treatment for adults, 18 years old and older.

Located on a 14-acre campus, University Behavioral Center accepts most insurance plans, including private insurances, TRICARE®, Medicaid HMOs and Medicare.

For more information on all the other services we provide at University Behavioral Center, call us at 407-281-7000 or reach out to us online.

  1. Baghaie H, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the association between poor oral health and substance abuse. 2017;112(5):765–779. doi: 10.1111/add.13754.
  2. World Health Organization (2011) Global status report on alcohol and health. World Health Organization. doi: /entity/substance_abuse/publications/global_alcohol_report/en/index.html
  3. Wang P, et al. Comprehensive dental treatment for “meth mouth”: a case report and literature review. J Formosan Med Assoc. 2014;113(11):867–871. doi: 10.1016/j.jfma.2012.01.016