If you are addicted to drugs, you may be at greater risk of developing tooth decay and periodontal disease than people with no substance use disorders, a study has showed.
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The findings, led by Hooman Baghaie from the University of Queensland in Australia, showed that 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. Patients with substance use disorders also exhibited greater tooth loss, non-carious tooth loss and destructive periodontal disease.
In addition, tolerance to pain killers and anaesthetics also contributes to poor dental care, the researchers said, in the paper published in the journal Addiction.
Oral health has significant consequences on quality of life and general health. In addition to functional and self-esteem issues that accompany bad teeth, the chronic inflammation and bacteraemia (bacteria in the blood) characteristic of poor oral health increases the incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and respiratory disease.
Researchers suggested that doctors and clinicians should screen people with substance use disorders for oral diseases and arrange for dental care as needed.
“They should consider using sugar-free preparations when prescribing methadone as well as warn patients of the oral health risks associated with dry mouth and cravings for sweet foods,” Baghaie suggested.
For the study, the team combined the results of 28 studies from around the world, which collectively provided data on 4,086 dental patients with substance use disorder and 28,031 controls.