The Importance of Managing Dental Care in The Addicted Individual

August 20, 2019

With all of the trauma – both physical and emotional, as well as the self-destructive behavior that counselors see on a daily basis, it is, at times, easy to overlook dental issues. After all, while our teeth may be important, do good teeth really enhance the therapeutic process?

The surprising and short answer is YES!

The causes of drug-related tooth decay and gum disease are very straightforward. Ultimately, due to the addiction and resultant behavioral disorders, an addict rarely prioritizes their oral health, leading to neglect and all manner of dental issues. Further, some substances, like alcohol, can exacerbate these dental issues due to its irritating nature and sugar content. Drugs themselves can cause dental problems including:

  • Grinding and clenching of teeth leading to damage
  • Dry mouth, leading to tooth decay
  • Excess sugar intake, stimulated by certain drugs can lead to rotting teeth
  • And more

How Dental Health Affects General Health?

Dental health has been proven to have an effect on overall health, particularly cardiovascular health. Recent studies have shown that common inflammation such as gingivitis can allow harmful bacteria into the bloodstream, which can cause or worsen heart disease including stroke and heart attack. As we know, addicts are already susceptible to heart disease for a number of reasons, so poor oral hygiene can simply make the matter worse and increase risk.

There’s also a psychological component to healthy and good-looking teeth. No matter how successful the treatment program, toothaches or pains can put a dampener on recovery. Further, looking in the mirror and seeing the results of poor dental hygiene looking back at you can be frustrating, demoralizing and ultimately work against the therapeutic process.

How Do We Ensure That Our Clients Receive Proper Dental Care?

If your treatment center does not have a comprehensive dental care referral program, this may be a good time to discuss creating it. Insurance coverage and payment terms will vary by patient, of course, however there are a myriad of low-cost or even free resources in almost every community around the United States.

Dental care should also be discussed and a plan for management or resolution of dental problems should be created as part of the overall treatment plan.

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