What is Coke Jaw?

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What is Coke Jaw? Exploring Cocaine’s Effects on the Mouth

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug that can have lasting impacts on your health, especially your jaw, mouth, and teeth. If you have ever heard of coke jaw, you might be wondering what exactly the term means.

Coke jaw is a slang term that describes the effects that cocaine has on a person’s jaw. When someone abuses cocaine heavily, they might begin to move their jaw in strange patterns. This happens because cocaine can cause jaw clenching and muscle twitching.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), nearly 5 million people abused cocaine in 2021.[1] If you or a loved one regularly abuses cocaine, being aware of what coke jaw is and how the substance can affect the health of your mouth, jaw, and teeth can motivate you to seek the help you need.

How Does Cocaine Abuse Impact the Jaw, Mouth, and Teeth?

While coke jaw can be incredibly difficult to cope with, it is only the beginning of the damaging side effects the substance can have on your mouth. Cocaine causes you to continuously grind your teeth, you can develop a wide range of issues related to your jaw, mouth, and teeth.

The impacts of long-term cocaine abuse on the mouth include:

Dry Mouth

When you abuse cocaine, saliva production slows down. This can lead to persistent dry mouth. While dry mouth might not sound like a serious issue, having a dry mouth for a long time can lead to an array of problems, such as:

  • Tooth decay
  • Bleeding gums
  • Gum disease


Bruxism is the official medical term for what people refer to as “coke jaw.” Bruxism causes you to grind and clench your teeth while you are awake and asleep. If you use cocaine long-term, you will experience prolonged bruxism that can lead to broken teeth, worn-down enamel, and even tooth decay.[2]


Oftentimes, people who abuse cocaine rub the excess powder on their gums. Unfortunately, rubbing cocaine on the gums increases the risk of gum diseases like periodontitis.[3]

Periodontitis causes your gums to recede and retract. Over time, this can cause your teeth to decay and fall out.

Oral Palate Perforation

Most people who abuse cocaine snort it, and snorting cocaine causes the blood vessels in your nose to constrict. Eventually, constricted blood vessels can lead to necrosis because there is little blood flowing to the tissue.

When you experience necrosis of tissue in your nose, it can lead to perforations in your oral palate.[4] This means you will have a hole in the roof of your mouth, making it difficult for you to eat, drink, and speak correctly.

Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)

Coke jaw is an example of how cocaine abuse can lead to temporomandibular disorders (TMDs). TMDs are conditions related to uncontrollable movements of the jaw. These conditions can be incredibly difficult to cope with, causing pain, discomfort, and difficulty chewing.

Symptoms of temporomandibular disorders caused by cocaine include:[5]

  • Limited mouth mobility
  • Jaw joint pain
  • Popping or clicking of the jaw
  • Headaches
  • Pain in facial muscles
  • Face palpitations

Can You Recover From Coke Jaw?

Coke jaw is usually a temporary side effect of long-term cocaine abuse. If you are only experiencing grinding and uncontrollable movements of the jaw, stopping the use of cocaine will help your symptoms subside.

However, some of the long-term effects of cocaine on oral health might require extensive treatment. For example, if you develop gum disease, tooth loss, or perforations in your palate, you may require long-term dental treatment and surgery to make a full recovery.

Overall, the only way to successfully recover from coke jaw and the other health risks of cocaine abuse is to attend a drug rehab program and stay sober. Getting sober can be difficult, but addiction treatment centers can provide you with the tools and support you need to end your cocaine abuse once and for all.

Find Help for Cocaine Addiction

If you or a loved one are addicted to cocaine and experience coke jaw, it’s time to seek professional help. Reputable addiction treatment programs can guide you toward sobriety by helping you detox safely, address the root cause of your addiction, learn healthy coping skills, and provide you with comprehensive aftercare support services that reinforce your sobriety.

To get connected with a top-rated cocaine rehab center, contact New Jersey Interventions today.


  1. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA): What is the scope of cocaine use in the United States, Retrieved September 2023 From https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-scope-cocaine-use-in-united-states
  2. The National Library of Medicine (NLM): Drug-induced bruxism, Retrieved September 2023 From https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6698238/
  3. The National Library of Medicine (NLM): Cocaine-associated rapid gingival recession and dental erosion. A case report, Retrieved September 2023 From https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9182745/
  4. The National Library of Medicine (NLM): Surgical treatment of cocaine-induced palatal perforations: Report of three cases and literature review, Retrieved September 2023 From https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7864366/
  5. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR): TMD (Temporomandibular Disorders), Retrieved September 2023 From https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/tmd

Medically Reviewed: September 11, 2023

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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