Many dentists' office include posters as a part of their dental office design to educate patients on the potential dangers of certain habits. Drug and alcohol addiction, for instance, can cause a variety of dental issues, but many patients do not make the mental link between addiction and dental health issues.
Gum disease is unquestionably the most common dental problem associated with drug use. Addicts often simply forget to brush and floss, and many avoid dentists' office because they assume that dentists will judge them or call the police to report the signs of illegal drug use. Dentists will never report drug or alcohol use, but most addicts don't realize this and many would never consider spending drug money on a dental visit. As a result, addicts' gums start to bleed from light pressure and may recede, exposing the teeth to even more serious conditions. Many addicts have sensitive teeth and gums after neglecting oral health.
Alcohol and many other drugs cause a condition called dry mouth, in which the mouth is unable to salivate. While this doesn't sound like a serious issue, saliva has an important function in overall dental health. Healthy mouths salivate to get rid of food particles. When a mouth cannot salivate, the enamel of the teeth can break down due to a higher acidity. Some drugs also increase acidity without causing dry mouth. In either case, enamel issues are a serious problem for addicts and can eventually result in tooth loss. Chewing gum can help restore normal salivary gland function, but addicts should eventually quit using drugs and alcohol to avoid other dangers associated with oral drugs.
It is important to understand that addiction is a disease. Addicts need professional help in order to recover, and while the dental consequences of addiction are serious, addiction can also lead to organ failure and death. Addicts should work with professionals to treat their conditions appropriately and should schedule dental office visits as a part of a larger course of treatment.
Picture Credit Udell Dental Laboratory