Being addicted to drugs causes tooth decay, new research confirms.
On average, those with cocaine and cannabis habits had about 3.5 less teeth, the study found.
Adults who regularly used the latter snacked more often and eroded their own teeth, scientists claim.
While some narcotics – including cocaine – caused chemical deterioration when applied to the teeth or gums.
Addicts of both would also clench and grind their teeth, another known risk factor of tooth decay.
A team of Australian researchers combined the results of 28 previous dental studies from around the world.
The study included data of 4,086 patients with known substance use disorders of various drugs.
Writing in the journal Addiction, the researchers said: ‘The use of drugs is increasing by approximately 3 million new users each year.
‘While the global use of amphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy are estimated to have decreased in the past decade, the use of opiods and cannabis is continually rising.
‘These problems should receive greater attention, and there are simple steps that both dental and non-dental personnel can take to improve this population’s oral health.’
They found those with addiction to substances were also less likely to visit the dentist than the wider population.
The lifestyle of drug users often enhanced tooth decay too. This included high sugar diets, malnutrition, poor oral hygiene and lack of regular dental care.
Dentists should screen all patients for drug abuse, the scientists from Queensland, Melbourne and James Cook universities claimed.
Any patient that has significantly more tooth decay than expected, based on their age, should be referred to doctors, they added.
The British Dental Association (BDA) said it wasn’t surprising that drug abusers had a greater prevalence of tooth decay and gum disease than the general population.
A BDA spokesperson said: ‘Drug addiction often goes hand in hand with a chaotic lifestyle, poor nutrition and oral hygiene and generally seeing the dentist only when in pain.
‘Unfortunately their dental problems can be exacerbated by a craving for sweet foods and the reduction in saliva as a side effect of the drugs and medication.’