Dental Courses

Factors for Dental Disease in Injection Drug Users

Observations and reports have been made regarding a prevalence of dental disease in young adult chronic injection drug users. However, there are no scientific studies or experiments that have thoroughly investigated and given evidence to a direct relationship between injection drug use and occurrence of dental diseases. This may be due to the difficulty to attain an adequate sample population, the difficulty to isolate one drug to one disease, and the difficulty to isolate variables of the study.

There are, however, factors mentioned as to why dental disease may be prevalent in young adult chronic injection drug users. These are:

1. Xerostomia. A side effect of prolonged stimulant use is salivary hypofunction. Drugs such as methamphetamine act on Alpha-adrenergic receptors in salivary glands, causing a vasoconstriction and a resultant reduction in salivary flow.

2. Sugary foods. It is observed and reported that chronic drug users experience dry-mouth and address this by taking in more sugary drinks and foods, especially in the evening before sleep when intake of drugs is more prevalent.

3. Poor Oral Hygiene. Chronic injection drug users report a decrease in oral hygiene practice and concern. Many have admitted infrequently brushing their teeth and even not at all brushing for days. Researchers have attributed this decreased concern for oral hygiene to the increased concern to seek, attain, and take drugs.

4. Self Treatment. Some drug users who experience oral pain tend to ignore the pain or to self-medicate with alcohol or more drugs.

5. Corrosion. Some drug users tend to vomit while under the influence, which exposes teeth to corrosive chemicals.

6. Bruxism. Stimulants, such as methamphetamine and cocaine, cause persons to clench and grind their teeth more.

7. Causative bacteria. Research about the local complications of injection drug use, such as mentioned above, reveals that causative organisms for these complications include Staphylococcus Aureus, Staphylococcus Epidermis, Streptococci, and Gram-negative Bacilli. Some of these are relevant in the formation and progression of dental disease. Although, it is to note that further study and evidence for this supposed factor is needed.

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