Drink, Drugs and Dentistry – Howard Thomas


  Posted by: manpreet.boora      2nd October 2017

Drug use is on the decline in the UK – and has been for some time now. Back in 1998, when rave culture was at its peak, a whopping 31.8 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds had taken an illegal drug.[i] Now, that number has fallen to 18 per cent. It’s a similar story among 11 to 15-year-olds, with statistics revealing that the number of those who have ever used an illegal drug has halved since 2001, from 29 per cent to 15 per cent. With regard to 16 to 59-year-olds, it is thought around 8.4 per cent had used drugs on one or more occasion in the year leading up to the survey.[ii]

As for drinking, recent statistics reveal that alcohol consumption is at the lowest rate since the survey began in 2005. Indeed, of the 8,000 people that participated in the study, 56.9 per cent said they had drunk alcohol in the week before being interviewed – that’s a drop of 7.3 per cent. There has also been nearly a 2 per cent increase in the number of people that do not drink at all since 2005.[iii]

This drop in drink and drug use is, of course, good news for the profession. It is well documented that patients with substance use disorders have greater and more severe dental caries and periodontal disease than the general population,[iv] so the fewer patients affected by this, the better.

But what about those still exposed to the risks of drug and alcohol use? Though the issue has improved considerably, there is still a worrying number of patients who continue to take narcotics or drink – and this will always be the case, regardless of how much progress is made. As such, dental professionals must continue to take the necessary steps to improve the health of affected patients.

First and foremost, make your patients aware of the dangers of drug and alcohol use by posting on your website, putting up posters in the waiting room of your practice and providing leaflets. There’s no way of knowing if someone is a regular user of narcotics or a heavy drinker – unless they come out and tell you – so you are rarely going to be able to target patients directly and on an individual level. What you can do, however, is take the extra time to screen your patients for possible symptoms of substance abuse during examinations. After all, each individual drug has its own tell tale signs of use – for instance, cocaine users can present with rapid gingival recession, dental erosion, oral candidiasis and so on – so be sure to remain alert to any indications that are out of the ordinary.

If in the event you have a patient experiencing oral health issues related to drugs or drink, be sure to provide them with quality oral health tools that compliment any treatment and therapy you may be giving them. Curaprox adjuncts like the CPS prime and perio ranges of interdental brushes and CS 5460 ultra soft toothbrush are ideal solutions for this, as they can help with the effective management of gingivitis, periodontitis and caries.

Altogether, drug and drink use is on the decline, but there are still many affected by misuse. While this issue remains prevalent, all professionals must take the appropriate steps to treat patients suffering from drug or drink related diagnoses.


For more information please call 01480 862084, email info@curaprox.co.uk 

or visit www.curaprox.co.uk




[i] National Statistics. Statistics on young people and drug misuse: England, 2006. Accessed online 4 May 2017 at http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB00109/youn-peop-drug-misu-eng-2006-rep.pdf

[ii] National Statistics. Statistics on drug misuse: England 2016. Accessed online 4 May 2017 at http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB21159/drug-misu-eng-2016-rep.pdf

[iii] Office for National Statistics. Adult drinking habits in Great Britain: 2015 to 2016. Published 3 May 2017. Accessed online 4 May 2017 at https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/drugusealcoholandsmoking/bulletins/opinionsandlifestylesurveyadultdrinkinghabitsingreatbritain/2005to2016#other-characteristics-of-drinkers

[iv] Baghaie H et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the association between poor oral health and substance abuse. Addiction, may 2017; 112 (5): 765-779. Accessed online 4 May 2017 at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.13754/abstract;jsessionid=E0895B40DEBCAD6EAD0EE3C550F4B70D.f04t01

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