What is Cocaine Mouth?

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Known commonly by its street names coke, blow, or powder, cocaine is an illegal and highly addictive substance. Many users seek the euphoria (1) that comes as a result of its use, but are unaware of the potential side effects of extended use. One of those side effects is known as cocaine mouth or “coke mouth.” Throughout this article, we will review what “coke mouth” is, how it is caused, and, most importantly, how to prevent it.

Due to cocaine’s highly addictive properties, many find themselves or someone they love in need of treatment for cocaine use. The good news is, there is hope. Guardian Recovery seeks to help those who struggle with this or any other substance use disorder to achieve the freedom that is possible. If you or someone you know would like more information or to speak with an admissions coordinator about substance use treatment options, contact Guardian Recovery today.

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How Does Cocaine Affect Teeth?

Cocaine use over an extended period of time negatively affects many organs and bone structures of the body. As is often the case with extended periods of substance use, some side effects come as a direct result of using the substance itself. Other effects, however, come as an indirect result of the lifestyle that is often associated with heavy drug use. Whether knowingly or not the teeth are often noticeably impacted leading the user to feel a sense of shame or lower self worth.

Hygiene

An often overlooked issue when speaking about tooth health as it relates to cocaine use is the lack of hygiene that can often be associated with the lifestyle of a frequent user of cocaine. Struggling with a substance use disorder can cause the user to feel a lack of motivation or desire to manage their oral hygiene properly. As a result, tooth decay, tooth loss, gum disease, or a host of other (5) preventable health concerns come as a result of poor oral hygiene. Regular brushing, flossing, and dental check ups can actively counter dental hygiene concerns as well as elevating your self esteem throughout the recovery process.

Gum Disease (Periodontitis)

Gum Disease is common among those who frequently use cocaine. Also known as Periodontitis, it is an inflammatory disease (6) that affects both the hard and soft tissue of the gums.  This leads to softening or weakening of the gum structures that hold teeth in place. It should come as no surprise that this is the leading cause (6) of tooth loss world wide. Gum disease is preventable with good oral hygiene including regular brushing and check ups with your dentist.

Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

Another common condition directly related (7) to over use of cocaine is Xerostomia or dry mouth. Dry mouth, in its less severe forms, can be irritating and cause difficulties with chewing and tasting. In its more extreme forms it can lead to tooth decay and various oral infections (8). Once the cocaine use is discontinued, the condition will often repair itself but can also include medicated toothpaste or adjustments to brushing patterns and frequency as treatment options.

Ulcers

As cocaine use continues, the amount of the substance that comes into contact with the sensitive tissue in the mouth and nasal cavity greatly increases. With the oral and nasal trauma that comes as a result of the various ways of ingesting cocaine (snorting through the nose, rubbing on the gums, etc) various ulcers can begin to form. These can often serve as an inconvenience in their mild forms but are prone to infection (9) and if left untreated may cause serious damage to the mouth, sinus, or nasal cavity.

Erosion, Teeth Grinding, & Tooth Decay

Tooth grinding (also known as Bruxism) and other tooth abrasions can be associated with regular cocaine use as well. As a stimulant, cocaine excites the body’s central nervous system occasionally leading to involuntary movements. A common involuntary movement is the clenching of the jaw causing the grinding of the user’s teeth. Over time this will wear out the enamel and cause breaks and fractures (10). Cocaine, specifically, also raises the pH (10) of the saliva in frequent users leading this to become an erosive substance to their teeth.

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Dangerous Long-Term Damage of Cocaine on the Mouth

Though they may not be noticeable immediately, continued use over time can lead to dramatic health concerns within your entire oral cavity. The most dramatic of these is known as Palatal Perforation.

Palatal Perforation

The roof of your mouth is made up of two plates. The first is rigid and located directly above your tongue. The second plate is much softer and located just behind the first plate leading back towards your throat. As you continue to use cocaine, these plates will erode causing deformation (11) or in severe cases a hole to form. As a hole forms the surrounding tissue begins to break down leading to a host of other health concerns. This erosion with the accompanying decay in flesh that surrounds them is known as Palatal Perforation.

Effects of Perforation of Holes in Mouth

As holes begin to form on the roof of your mouth from cocaine use, lack of the ability to taste, difficulty with your sense of smell, and increased risk for infections all result. As with many oral conditions brought on by continued cocaine use, cessation of drug use and proper oral hygiene are the leading ways to prevent them before they progress.

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Treatment for Damage & Effects on the Mouth

Thankfully, many of the symptoms and root causes of cocaine mouth will resolve themselves (5) once you stop using the illicit substance. Though this can be difficult, your overall oral health will begin to improve dramatically with this step alone. A dentist may need to be consulted for repair of eroded or damaged teeth. Severe conditions like Palatal Perforation may require surgery. As with any medical condition, consult a medical professional for advice on your best course of treatment.

The task of overcoming a substance use disorder related to cocaine or any other substance can seem monumental without the right help. Guardian Recovery understands this and has designed their admissions process with this in mind. Our highly trained admissions coordinators are able to provide specific information to your situation as well as perform a free insurance check with no obligation to you. The process of beginning your path to freedom may simply be one phone call away. Contact Guardian Recovery today.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/oral-health
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/fast-facts/gum-disease/index.html
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28591239/#:~:text=A%20significant%20reduction%20in%20stimulated,users%20(p%20%3C%200.012)
  4. https://www.ada.org/resources/research/science-and-research-institute/oral-health-topics/xerostomia
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9844367/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4453891/
  7. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5443377_Cocaine_and_oral_health
  8. https://www.guardianrecoverynetwork.com/addiction-treatment/admissions-and-insurance/

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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