Oral health sensations associated with illicit drug abuse

Br Dent J. 2005 Feb 12;198(3):159-62; dicussion 147; quiz 174. doi: 10.1038/sj.bdj.4812050.


Objectives: To investigate oral health sensations (short term oral health effects) associated with illicit drug abuse. In addition, to identify variations in oral health sensations produced by different illicit drugs.

Subject: Young adults in a drug rehabilitation programme in Hong Kong, China.

Method: Self-completed questionnaire about their previous pattern of drug abuse and oral health sensations experienced (recalled).

Results: All (119) subjects were poly-drug abusers (abused one or more illicit drugs in the past). Amphetamine-based drugs such as methamphetamine ('speed') and methylenedioxymethamphetine ('ecstasy') were commonly abused. A wide range of oral health sensations were reported on recall of their abuse of illicit drugs; most frequently dry mouth (95%, 113). Types of illicit drugs abused were associated with oral health sensations reported (P < 0.001). 'Ecstasy' abusers more frequently reported chewing (P < 0.001), grinding (P < 0.001), and TMJ tenderness (P < 0.001) compared to non-'ecstasy' abusers.

Conclusion: Illicit drug abuse produces many oral health sensations. Types of drugs abused were associated with oral sensations produced. and behavioural effects that may manifest as depression, anxiety, memory loss and various neuropsychotic disorders.(8),(9) In some cases drug abuse can result in death by various means: malignant hyperthermia, internal bleeding, fatal overdosing and through allergic reactions.(10),(11) Likewise, there have been reports on the long term clinical effects of illicit drug abused on oral health.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bruxism / chemically induced
  • Facial Pain / chemically induced
  • Female
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mouth Diseases / chemically induced*
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / adverse effects
  • Somatosensory Disorders / chemically induced
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Xerostomia / chemically induced


  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine