A new review published online today in the scientific journal Addiction has found that dental patients with substance use disorders have more tooth decay and periodontal disease than the general population, but are less likely to receive dental care. With drug use increasing by approximately three million new users each year, this is a problem that won’t disappear anytime soon.
Drug use affects oral health through direct physiological routes such as dry mouth, an increased urge for snacking, clenching and grinding of teeth, and chemical erosion from applying cocaine to teeth and gums. The lifestyle that often accompanies problematic drug use also affects oral health through high sugar diets, malnutrition, poor oral hygiene, and lack of regular professional dental care. Dental care can be further compromised by tolerance to painkillers and anaesthetics.