What are the effects of other drugs on the mouth?

Many drugs affect the mouth, including illegal drugs that people take to get high. These effects include:

  • Dry mouth. A common side effect of some drugs is that a person’s mouth does not make enough saliva. When someone has dry mouth regularly, it can be difficult to chew, swallow, or even talk. Dry mouth also increases the risk for tooth decay or fungal infections in the mouth because saliva helps keep harmful germs in check.3
  • Tooth decay. Some drugs cause an increased urge for sugary snacks and drinks. If you eat frequently throughout the day—especially high-sugar snacks and drinks—you can develop cavities.
  • Jaw pain from clenching teeth. Drugs that work as stimulants, like methamphetamine, cocaine, and Ecstasy (“Molly”), can make a person clench and grind teeth. Over time, this can lead to loose, chipped, or worn teeth, or pain in the jaw muscles and joint.
  • Erosion of tooth enamel. Sometimes people rub cocaine on their gums and near their teeth to get high. The mixture of cocaine and saliva is acidic, which can cause erosion of tooth enamel (the protective outer layer of the tooth). It can also cause sores on the gums.

3 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. "Dry Mouth." Available at https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/dry-mouth.