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Illegal Drugs a Risk to Dental Health

Illegal drugs pose many dental health hazards.

Q: My 17-year-old son has recently come out of a drug rehabilitation center for abuse of heroin and cocaine. He has not been to the dentist in about two years. His teeth seem discolored and his gums red and puffy. What do you recommend?
A: Opiate drugs, especially heroin, have made an unfortunate comeback in recent years. Both heroin and cocaine present risks that you need to be aware of. Heroin taken intravenously (into the veins) increases the risk of Hepatitis (a dangerous viral infection of the liver) and HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) infection. Heroin is a highly addictive drug that quickly causes dependence and can cause death by shutting off the respiratory (breathing) system. Cocaine is a natural anesthetic drug that is also often abused. High doses of cocaine affect the central nervous system causing excitation, restlessness, anxiety and confusion. Cocaine overdose causes rapid pulse, nausea, vomiting, convulsions and death from respiratory arrest.

Heroin addicts, and abusers of other drugs, often have poor dental health due to neglect. Heroin addicts often have cavities along the gum-line and periodontal disease, because the drug causes a decrease in the production of saliva. Saliva protects the mouth by neutralizing acids that cause cavities and providing lubrication that reduces the retention of food debris. Cocaine can have deadly effects when combined with typical dental anesthetics used for routine treatment. Cocaine can interact with the epinephrine in the anesthetic to greatly increase the risk of heart attack.

Your son should see the dentist as soon as possible. Tell the dentist about your son's past history of drug addiction, including the type and frequency, to the best of your knowledge. Discuss with your son some of the risks I have mentioned. This may encourage him to be honest about his addiction, and allow him to treat his dental problems safely.

Remember, only a dentist can diagnose your dental problems and offer the right treatment plan for you. If you need a dentist, call us at 1-866-970-0441 to be connected with one today.

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