Dentistry in Recovery: The Importance of Assessing dental health.

October 1, 2016
Johann Kassim

Over 51 million Americans have tried Methamphetamines at least once in their life. Chances are some of them have developed dependency towards the drug resulting in the infamous dental condition of Meth overuse known as “Meth Mouth”. Besides Meth, Crack Cocaine, Marijuana, and eating disorders have also contributed to oral illnesses. Tooth decay, gingivitis, and other chronic oral infections await the unwary addict in recovery. This is because dental illnesses may still pervade long after sobriety is achieved. Yet, unless an addict is abstinent either from drugs or from a process addiction, which damages the oral cavity (eating disorders), one will not attain full dental recovery. Hence, abstinence is the foundation for oral recovery in as much as it applies to addiction. Therefore, it is imperative to take dental care seriously in recovery because being in recovery is the right time when damages can be healed and fixed before deterioration makes it too late for dental rejuvenation!

Dental Effects of Drug Abuse

Below is a list identifying the various drugs and the negative consequences on one’s dental health:

Cocaine

Movement  disorder (Transient Chorea), Buccolingual Dyskinesia (Crack  Dancing) Or

Boca Torcada (Twisted Mouth)

Heroin

Decayed,  Missing, and filled teeth

Marijuana

Acidic erosion  of enamel due to Cannibinoid  Hyperemesis as a result of increased vomiting.

Methamphetamines (Meth)

Meth Mouth,  which consists of: Large carious lesions in buccal smooth surface areas,  fractured teeth, prolonged sleep leading to poor oral hygiene.

Dental Effects of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders range from starvation (Anorexia Nervosa), binge eating disorder, binge and purge cycles (Bulimia Nervosa), to nutritional obsession (Orthorexia Nervosa) all of which causes nutritional deficiency at some level. This leads to a number of dental problems as the oral cavity plays a major role in the disorder and is largely affected by the abuse of food. Below is a list of dental effects resultant of eating disorders:

1)     Without proper nutrition, gums and other soft tissue will become vulnerable to bleeding easily.

2)     Food restriction brings with it nutritional deficiency such as in Anorexia Nervosa, restrictive food intake inhibits proper/appropriate nutritional absorption causing a lack of calcium, vitamins D and B3 resulting in gingivitis.

3)     Frequent vomiting, which involves continuous regurgitation of stomach acids over teeth, causes enamel erosion and tooth discoloration not to mention tooth decay.

4)     A complication due to eating disorders is the development of degenerative arthritis within the temporomandibular joint in the jaw resulting in difficulty in opening and closing the mouth.

5)     Purging can lead to “soft palate”, which are cuts and scratches in the mouth.

6)     Frequent binge and purge cycles, will cause enlargement of salivary glands, which can be very painful as well as visible to others, causing much emotional distress.

Why is it important to assess our oral health in recovery?

Oral health is still health and like all facets of physical well-being, it is important to assess dental health because negligence in this area may result in a number of unwanted consequences such as: [3]

1)     Death can result from severe oral disorders. For instance, Ludwig’s and Vincent’s Angina are two different types of acute airway obstructions that may result from disregarded oral pain, swelling, infection, and abscessed teeth. Death by means of choking could result from this disease. This makes it ever so pertinent not to undermine the severity of oral disease.

2)     Oral disease precedes immune-deficient ailments. Oral lesions could be a precursor for sexually transmitted illnesses (STIs) and Diabetes Type II to name a few. Complications from oral disease have serious physiological ramifications, hence the importance of dental management in recovery.

3)     Chronic oral infections will lead to heart, lung disease, and stroke. Thus the necessity for continuous monitoring, especially after the destruction brought on by previous addictive behavior and chemical abuse.

Besides averting ourselves from unwanted circumstances, as stated above; it is necessary to monitor our dental well-being for recovery purposes such as:

4)     Practicing contrary action in recovery – Practicing appropriate dental / oral hygiene is the opposite of the negligent behavior endemic in active addiction of not caring at all about our physical well-being. It shows that we care for ourselves and that sends a strong and powerful message to our own recovery.

5)     Good oral health creates radiant recovery – The pay-off of a recovering lifestyle for addicts new to sobriety is the amount of well-being and radiance pervasive as a result of the absence of addiction. Good oral health actually adds to that radiance because not only does it facilitate a beautiful smile, but it enhances a holistic healthy body system.

 

[1] Information was cited from: http://www.oralhealthgroup.com/features/dental-management-of-patients-with-a-history-of-substance-abuse-with-special-consideration-for/  

[2] Taken from: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/dental-complications-eating-disorders

[3] Information for the unwanted consequences was taken from: http://www.esciencecentral.org/journals/the-importance-of-oral-health-in-treatment-outcomes-for-the-chemically-dependent-population-2329-6488-1000204.php?aid=54160

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