Heroin is an addictive and illicit drug that affects the lives of millions of Americans, including both individuals and families impacted by addiction.
Dental health for instance can be negatively impacted by heroin use. This is particularly true in cases of chronic heroin abuse, where the drug is used frequently and compulsively over time.
Chronic abuse of heroin can lead to what’s known as “heroin teeth,” a long-term effect of heroin use that causes tooth decay and other negative effects.
What Are “Heroin Teeth”?
Heroin teeth is a nonclinical term that is used to describe the direct or indirect effects of heroin use on oral health.
This is commonly used to describe teeth that have rotted, suffered decay, fallen out, or have otherwise been negatively affected by heroin use.
Other illegal drugs, such as the stimulant methamphetamine, cannabis, and MDMA, can also have effects on oral health that might leave a person vulnerable to severe issues down the line.
What Are The Effects Of Heroin On The Teeth?
Heroin is an opioid that is most commonly injected, smoked, or snorted. Smoking in particular can make you particularly susceptible to oral health problems and lung complications.
Regardless of the method of heroin abuse, people may experience negative effects on oral health over time.
In the short term, heroin use can cause dry mouth and teeth grinding (bruxism). It is also associated with cravings for sweet foods, as well as malnutrition and neglect of personal hygiene.
But the more significant effects of heroin on the teeth, collectively characterized as “heroin teeth,” generally occur through chronic use, which can have long-term health consequences.
Long-Term Effects Of Heroin On Oral Health
Long-term use of illegal drugs such as heroin can lead to poor oral health, including effects on the teeth, gums, and breath.
Below are some of the most common long-term effects associated with chronic heroin use.
Chronic heroin use and addiction have been linked to tooth decay. This can occur as a result of chronic malnutrition (also associated with addiction) and neglect of oral hygiene.
Some people who become addicted to heroin may neglect dental problems or may lack dental insurance that renders them capable of attending to dental issues that do arise from drug use.
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is another consequence of oral health that can occur as a result of the physiological effects of heroin and poor personal hygiene.
Since heroin is a painkiller, the drug can also mask the pain of cavities that develop, teeth grinding, and looming gum disease associated with heavy, chronic opiate abuse.
Similar to heavy methamphetamine use, or “meth mouth,” chronic heroin abuse over months or years can lead to tooth decay and, in severe cases, tooth loss.
Missing teeth is one of the most visible signs of chronic drug addiction and associated quality of life issues that can prevent a person from seeking dental care before their teeth begin to fall out.
Poor Oral Hygiene
Substance abuse can cause someone to neglect other aspects of their life and overall well-being, including their attention to personal and oral hygiene.
This might include:
- forgetting or failing to brush teeth regularly
- reduction in flossing (or no flossing)
- forgoing visits to the dentist
- excessive consumption of sugary foods (as a result of cravings)
- insufficient intake of fruits, vegetables, and other nutritions important to oral health
Unfortunately, this neglect of personal hygiene, coupled with the direct side effects of smoking or injecting heroin, can negatively affect oral health and lead to severe issues over the long term.
What Are Common Signs Of Heroin Teeth?
Heroin teeth are generally identified by teeth that are missing, discolored, rotted, or have suffered other visible signs of tooth damage as a result of chronic heroin misuse.
Other signs of heroin teeth might include:
- swollen, tender, or red gums (i.e. signs of gum disease)
- mouth sores
- ulcers in the mouth
- worn tooth enamel
- pain in the jaw
Treatment For Heroin Teeth And Addiction
Oral healthcare can be one of several components of an addiction treatment program for heroin, which is generally recommended for those who are unable to stop heroin on their own.
During a heroin use treatment program, dental care may be encouraged or directly offered to help address the effects of heroin on your oral or dental health, alongside treatment for drug addiction.
Addiction treatment programs may include:
- methadone maintenance
- mental health treatment
- referrals for dental treatment, including fillings
- other behavioral health services
Without seeking help for heroin addiction, however, oral health issues caused by your drug use may be subject to grow worse. A holistic, evidence-based treatment plan is highly recommended.
Find Heroin Addiction Treatment Today
At DetoxRehabs.net, our admissions specialists can help you identify the best treatment program for yourself or a loved one who has a heroin addiction.
Call today to learn more about treatment options for heroin addiction, or to find the best substance use disorder treatment center near you.Article Sources
- Journal Of The American Dental Association
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: PMC
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: PMC
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: PubMed