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Does Cocaine Cause Mouth Problems?

Published on February 16, 2021
Does Cocaine Cause Mouth Problems?

Frequent, long-term cocaine abuse is known to cause a wide range of severe and often disfiguring mouth and sinus problems. 

How Is Cocaine Used?

Cocaine is derived from coca leaves taken from the coca plant in South America. It reaches the United States as a water-soluble powder (cocaine hydrochloride) that is snorted or as freebase crack cocaine that’s smoked. 

Cocaine may also be adulterated or mixed with other drugs like amphetamine, methamphetamine, or heroin (speedball).

Each form of the drug has a high potential for compulsive use and yields powerful stimulant effects including a euphoric high and profound sense of well-being.

Effects Of Cocaine Use On The Mouth

Though its effects are less well known than methamphetamine, cocaine use can lead to a variety of harmful effects on the mouth and teeth, with the severity of the effects increasing dramatically as cocaine is used more frequently, in higher doses, and over a long period of time.

Gum Damage

Cocaine powder is acidic and is often cut with various sugars and other dilatants. If put inside the mouth, cocaine can mix with your saliva and inflame or erode the supportive tissues of your gums. This condition is known as periodontitis.

This acid can also slowly wear away your tooth enamel directly, causing lesions and tooth decay.

Dry Mouth

Cocaine causes xerostomia, or dry mouth, by dehydrating the body and interrupting saliva function. This causes the pH of the tooth surface to become more acidic before and after drug use, damaging your teeth.

Tooth Grinding

If you clench or grind your teeth without thinking about it, you have a condition known as bruxism. Severe Bruxism is a common side-effect of using stimulant drugs like cocaine.

Long-term bruxism may cause headaches, trouble sleeping, and pain in the muscles and joints related to the mouth. It can also wear down the surfaces of the teeth, exposing the inner layers and causing cocaine toothaches.

Nasal Septum Perforation

Cocaine crystals are abrasive and caustic, as are many adulterants and cutting agents. As a result, snorting cocaine causes nosebleeds, crusting, runny nose, and sinus infections.  

And, because cocaine is a vasoconstrictor, which narrows your blood vessels and deprives your body of blood and oxygen, the inside of your nose may have more trouble than normal dealing with this damage.

If you snort cocaine long term, the drug can damage the tissue between your nose to the point that it breaks down and dies, opening up a hole in the septum between your nostrils.

This can cause your entire nose to collapse, ending in a highly disfiguring condition known as saddle nose deformity.

Palatal Perforation

Sometime after the nasal septum is perforated, the damage can turn downwards and open up a hole in the top of the mouth that slowly expands. This can limit your ability to speak clearly, eat, and swallow. 

At this point, some choose to use wads of tissue paper or chewing gum (“cocaine gum”) to fill the open gap in their palate, between their nose and their mouth.

While it is possible for medical professionals to make a device to fill this gap, it’s not recommended except after long-term sobriety. As long as cocaine is still used, the perforation will continue to change and expand.

Poor Nutrition And Self Care

Cocaine suppresses both appetite and the urge to sleep, and can cause severe dehydration. It is also often binged for hours if not days at a time, followed by long, miserable crashes and recovery periods.

During these cycles of substance use it’s common for those who use cocaine to further neglect their physical health and well-being with a poor-quality diet, lots of sugar, use of other substances, and limited brushing or flossing.

Interactions With Dental Anesthetics

If you’ve used cocaine recently, the drug can cause your blood pressure and heart rate to spike dangerously if local anesthetics like lidocaine are used during a dental appointment. This mix can lead to severe convulsions and medical emergencies, including heart attack.

Treating Cocaine Addiction

The use of cocaine is harmful, as it impacts your body, mind, relationships, and more. But while cocaine use and cocaine withdrawal can be difficult to overcome, professional and compassionate treatment programs are available to help.

To learn more about our substance abuse treatment programs, please contact Ark Behavioral Health today.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

British Dental Journal - Cocaine and Oral Health
Iranian Journal of Public Health - Oral Health of Drug Abusers: A Review of Health Effects and Care
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) - What are the long term effects of Cocaine use?

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