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Just Say No: How Drugs Harm Your Dental Health

You may have heard that cigarettes are a major cause of periodontal (gum) disease. Tobacco smoking seems to interfere with gum tissue's ability to heal. Now, researchers are finding that illegal substances such as marijuana and methamphetamine may also affect your dental health. Here's a look at how these drugs can wreak havoc on your mouth.

Marijuana

Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in the United States. Like tobacco, smoking marijuana increases your risk for gum disease. In fact, heavy users are nearly seven times more likely to have gum disease than those who don't smoke marijuana, reports a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers believe that smoking marijuana leads to gum disease in ways that are similar to smoking tobacco.

Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine is also known as "meth" or "crystal meth." Using this drug can cause severe tooth decay. Experts have coined the term "meth mouth" to describe the condition.

Meth is highly acidic, which may damage teeth. In addition, people who use meth tend to have poor dental hygiene. They're more likely to consume large amounts of sugary sodas. They tend to suffer from dry mouth and grind or clench their teeth. All of these factors contribute to meth mouth.

Protect Your Health — Seek Help

Other drugs such as ecstasy cause dental issues such as teeth clenching and grinding, which can fracture and wear down teeth, and dry mouth, which can lead to cavities. Quitting drugs will benefit not only your body, but also your mouth. If you have an addiction, your doctor can help you find a treatment program that's right for you.

"Cannabis Smoking and Periodontal Disease Among Young Adults." W.M. Thomson et al. Journal of the American Medical Association. February 6, 2008. Vol. 299, No. 5, pp. 525-31. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=181408. Accessed 2013.

"MDMA (Ecstasy)." National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health. www.nida.nih.gov/drugpages/mdma.html. Accessed 2013.

"Meth Mouth." Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association, June 20, 2007. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/m/meth-mouth. Accessed 2013.

"Drug Facts: Marijuana." National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, December 2012. http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana. Accessed 2013.

"Substance Abuse: Overview." American Academy of Family Physicians, January 2011. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/substance-abuse.html. Accessed 2013.

"Teeth Grinding." Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/t/teeth-grinding. Accessed 2013.

"Ecstasy (MDMA) and Oral Health." British Dental Journal, March 22, 2008. Vol. 204, no. 6, 282–3. http://www.nature.com/bdj/journal/v204/n2/full/bdj.2008.4.html. Accessed 2013.

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