Cocaine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that works by stimulating the release of dopamine in the brain and preventing it from reabsorbing the excess. This causes a flood of dopamine in the brain, elevating mood, producing euphoria, and activating the reward system. This influx of dopamine and sense of reward reinforces drug-taking behavior, contributing to addiction. While cocaine can cause damage to all parts of the body, how does cocaine affect your teeth? Our Texas rehab is exploring cocaine’s effects on teeth and why they can be life-threatening.
In addition to the psychological and physiological effects of cocaine, it can also impact dental health. Common effects of crack cocaine on teeth include enamel erosion, perforation of the palate, periodontitis or retracted gums, dry mouth, cavities, and more. Without the help of an inpatient drug rehab, chronic cocaine users are more likely to experience tooth decay as well as organ failure and overdose. Below are some more details on what cocaine does to your teeth and gums.
Enamel or dental erosion is one of the most common effects of smoking crack on teeth. Dental erosion refers to the loss of tooth enamel, which is usually caused by frequent exposure to acid. Tooth enamel is the visible, outermost layer of your teeth. It’s the hardest substance in the human body and contains the most minerals. The powder version of cocaine is a salt (cocaine hydrochloride) that’s highly acidic. When cocaine is swallowed, eaten, or smoked, its acidity mixes with the acidity of your saliva, wearing down your tooth enamel.
As a CNS stimulant, cocaine is known for vasoconstriction or constricting the blood vessels. Vasoconstriction reduces oxygen supply to your organs, which can lead to cell death (cell necrosis.) When snorted, cocaine can cause vasoconstriction in the nasal route, perforating (causing a hole in) the nasal septum and surrounding tissue. The cartilage and tissue supporting the nose may also collapse, which is why many people with a history of cocaine abuse have thin or collapsed noses. Holes in the nasal passages can also cause whistling and trouble breathing. Moreover, not only can snorting cocaine damage your nose, but it can also cause perforation of the palate or the roof of the mouth. This can make swallowing, eating, and speaking difficult.
Bruxism refers to unconscious teeth grinding and clenching. This can occur during sleep in people who don’t even use cocaine. However, cocaine use can increase the likelihood of bruxism, which can lead to jaw pain and brittle teeth. Clenching your teeth wears down the chewing surface and causes damage where they meet the gums. Eventually, the teeth may crack or break down near the gums.
Otherwise known as xerostomia, dry mouth reduces the production and flow of saliva, which can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and enamel erosion. Saliva provides a natural defense against acid erosion, washes away food debris, and restores minerals to the teeth. Without it, plaque and tartar can build up at the gums, causing gum disease and increasing your risk of tooth decay and decay at the root of the teeth. Gum disease can even spread to neighboring teeth and result in tooth loosening and loss.
Periodontitis is a type of gum disease that causes inflammation of the periodontal tissue in the gums. When rubbed into the gums or eaten, cocaine can inflame periodontal tissue, resulting in the reabsorption of the alveolar bone. The alveolar bone is the thick ridge of the bone that contains tooth sockets. It lies under the gums in the jawbones and holds the teeth in place. Cocaine damage to teeth includes the retraction of the gums and periodontal tissue, which can lead to tooth loss.
When a person has a drug addiction, that substance takes precedence over everything else, including their hygiene. Substance abuse can damage a person’s finances, home life, body health, and oral health, all of which can impact the way they see and feel about themselves. As a result of damaged self-esteem, they may simply neglect their hygiene. Thus, cocaine effects on teeth can be caused directly by drug use and by a lack of dental hygiene. Long-term crack cocaine use can also affect the heart, liver, kidneys, mental health, and more. It’s recommended that people who are battling cocaine addiction get cocaine detox and treatment to recover.
In severe cases, when gum disease and tooth infection aren’t treated, things can escalate. Having an untreated gum or tooth infection can increase your risk of heart disease. This includes heart attack, stroke, and sudden heart failure. What may start as a small infection in your tooth can spread its way through your body and lead to sepsis or septic shock. Sepsis creates blood clots in the blood vessels, damaging them and compromising your organs. If sepsis progresses to septic shock, your blood pressure can drop rapidly, shutting down your body. Signs of a tooth infection include headaches, nausea, fever, and pain or swelling in the jaw. Infected teeth may also be black or cracked.
Behavioral therapy and addiction treatment may be necessary to overcome cocaine addiction. If you or a loved one struggles with cocaine abuse, call Banyan Treatment Centers Texas today at 888-280-4763. Calls are free, and representatives are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our drug addiction treatment in Texas can help you overcome your addiction and begin a new chapter of your life drug-free.