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What is Coke Jaw? Understanding the Cause and Side Effects

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Coke Jaw is a slang term for the addiction to cocaine. It is also known as “cocaine toothache” or “coke mouth.” Coke Jaw can be caused by the use of cocaine, crack, or other drugs that contain cocaine. The pain from Coke Jaw can be so severe that it causes people to stop using drugs altogether.

What is Coke Jaw?

Coke Jaw is a form of drug fever caused by cocaine use. It is the name given to a condition caused by cocaine abuse. It is characterized by an overgrowth of the gum tissue in the mouth and around the teeth. The tissues expand, ulcerate, and destroy tooth roots, eventually leading to tooth loss.

In some cases, the person might have to go to the hospital for treatment for this condition. It can be recognized by severe anxiety, body shakes, decreased blood flow in the lower extremities, and high blood pressure.

Cocaine has many negative impacts on the body. One of these is the “coke jaw,” or cocaine jaw, which is used to define the erratic and uncontrollable moving of the jaw. Snorting, smoking, or rubbing cocaine in your mouth can cause a coke jaw.

Coke jaw is another slang term for cocaine use. This describes all the effects on the mouth and jaw area from the use of cocaine.

Coke Jaw Signs and Symptoms

You can take cocaine by ingesting it, rubbing it on your gums, or snorting it up your nose. Since it is a powerful stimulant drug, coke speeds up your entire body. That leads to side effects like coke jaw clenching. The muscles in your mouth twitch in sporadic movements.

People with coke jaw movements will grind their teeth and move their mouths from side to side in an erratic fashion. Coke jaw is a physical side effect that leads to other complications within the mouth. 

Separated from cocaine jaw, there are numerous other symptoms that your loved ones may be on the drug. For example, cocaine users will continually experience convulsions, seizures, headaches, mood swings, bowel decay, loss of smell, runny nose, trouble swallowing, and such. Note that some of these symptoms will directly correlate to how the drug is taken.

Another significant sign of cocaine usage is dry mouth. Especially crack cocaine, such drugs can enormously reduce the discharge of saliva into the mouth. Although dry mouth may appear as a minor side effect, it can become a severe issue. A dry mouth can lead to other oral problems like bleeding gums, gum disease, and tooth decay. 

Finally, a significant sign that your loved one may be a cocaine abuser is when it is difficult for them to eat, swallow, or even speak. This occurs because when the drug is used, it is generally done by snorting it through the nasal cavity. This activity forces the blood vessels in the nose to constrict, cutting off the oxygen supply to the cells and causing them to die. This death of the cells leads to something known as the perforation of the oral palate. The roof of the mouth starts to deteriorate, causing the problems we mentioned earlier.

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Coke Jaw is a slang term for the addiction to cocaine. It is also known as "cocaine toothache" or "coke mouth." Coke Jaw can be caused by the use of cocaine, crack, or other drugs that contain cocaine. The pain from Coke Jaw can be so severe that it causes people to stop using drugs altogether.
Coke Jaw is a slang term for cocaine addiction. It is also known as “cocaine toothache” or “coke mouth.” Coke Jaw can be caused by cocaine, crack, or other drugs that contain cocaine. The pain from Coke Jaw can be so severe that it causes people to stop using drugs altogether.

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Coke Jaw Side Effects

The unstable moving and constant clenching of the jaw pose multiple serious and painful health problems. Along with jaw defects, the mouth is impacted, hurting the rest of your body’s normal functions.

Jaw Pain

Cocaine use can cause an individual to have overwhelming quantities of energy. Many will clench their jaws for lengthy periods when these emotions turn into anxiety.

Occasionally, jaw clenching is done absentmindedly. The prolonged tightening, clenching, and grinding of the jaw will cause jaw pain, even when cocaine leaves your system.

Coke jaw is often an easy way for people to identify that someone is abusing cocaine. The movement is erratic and looks uncontrollable. Cocaine causes this side effect because it has stimulant effects and causes hyperactivity.
Coke jaw is often easy for people to identify that someone is abusing cocaine. The movement is erratic and looks uncontrollable. Cocaine causes this side effect because it has stimulant effects and causes hyperactivity.

Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)

TMD is utilized to cover a wide range of conditions related to jaw joints. Coke jaw will cause an unmanageable amount of jaw movement. Symptoms of TMD are high among individuals who use cocaine.

Signs and symptoms of TMD are:

  • limited use of the mouth, including opening and closing range
  • clicking or popping of the jaw
  • jaw joint pain
  • severe headaches
  • tenderness in the facial muscles
  • Palpitations in the face


The jaw grinding will also generate extreme teeth grinding, known as bruxism, a teeth-grinding disorder. Some encounter this disorder even without cocaine. Cocaine’s effects strengthen this common habit, causing outer teeth grinding.

Teeth grinding can lead to the following:

  • cavities
  • brittle or broken teeth
  • worn down teeth enamel

Coke Mouth

Coke jaw is just one of the many mouth, throat, and jaw defects that habitual cocaine use can cause.“Coke mouth” is an umbrella term used to define all oral issues from cocaine use.

Signs and symptoms of coke mouth:

  • Perforation of the oral palate: Constantly snorting cocaine deteriorates the roof of the mouth. This can make it difficult to swallow, eat, and even speak.
  • Dry mouth: Cocaine, especially crack cocaine, can cause a reduction in saliva flow. Oral dryness can lead to tooth decay, bleeding gums, and gum disease.
  • Dental erosion: Cocaine is very high in acidity and bacteria, significantly when cocaine is cut with other substances. This can eat away at the necessary hard tissue that coats teeth.
  • Periodontitis: rubbing cocaine directly onto the gums is very common, but this can cause inflammation and periodontal disease. Teeth can also fall out as a result.
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What Drug Causes Your Jaw To Lock?

Tetanus is an infection induced by bacteria called Clostridium tetani. When these bacteria penetrate the body, they deliver toxins that induce painful muscle contractions. Another term for tetanus is “lockjaw”. It often causes an individual neck and jaw muscles to lock, making it hard to open the mouth or swallow.

Some medications can affect nerve function and lead to lockjaw. The most common culprits are anti-nausea medications, such as Reglan (metoclopramide), Transderm-Scop (scopolamine), Zofran (ondansetron), and Phenergan (promethazine) and some antipsychotic medications such as risperidone (Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel), olanzapine (Zyprexa), ziprasidone (Zeldox), paliperidone (Invega).

Rarely anesthetics can cause a rare condition called malignant hyperthermia. This complication is a severe reaction where a person gets a high body temperature and rapid heart rate. In addition, it can involve muscle spasms, including lockjaw.

What Drug Makes Your Jaw Move Side to Side?

Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are disorders of the jaw muscles, temporomandibular joints, and nerves associated with chronic facial pain. Any problem that prevents the complex system of muscles, bones, and joints from working together in harmony may result in temporomandibular disorder.

In many cases, the exact cause of this condition may not be clear. Occasionally the primary cause is excessive strain on the jaw joints and the muscle group that controls chewing, swallowing, and speech. This tension may be a result of bruxism. This is the habitual, involuntary clenching or grinding of the teeth.

But trauma to the jaw, the head, or the neck may cause TMD. Arthritis and displacement of the jaw joint disks can also cause TMD pain. In other cases, another painful medical condition, such as fibromyalgia or irritable bowel syndrome, may coincide with or aggravate the pain of TMD. A recent National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research study identified clinical, psychological, sensory, genetic, and nervous system aspects that may put an individual at higher risk of acquiring chronic TMD.

In many cases, the actual cause of this disorder may not be clear. Sometimes the main cause is excessive strain on the jaw joints and the muscle group that controls chewing, swallowing, and speech. 

coke jaw gif
In many cases, the actual cause of this disorder may not be clear. Sometimes the main cause is excessive strain on the jaw joints and the muscle group that controls chewing, swallowing, and speech.

Statistics On Cocaine Addiction And Abuse

More than 90% of people who have an addiction started to drink alcohol or use drugs before they were 18 years old.

Source: NCBI

Almost 21 million Americans have at least 1 addiction, yet only 10% receive treatment.

Source: NIDA

About 5 million Americans are regular Cocaine users, and There were 14,666 such deaths in 2018.

Source: NCBI

Treatment for Coke Jaw and Drug Abuse

Physical therapy begins with removing the toxic products of cocaine from the body, known as detoxification or “detox.” To successfully handle cocaine withdrawal symptoms, supervised medical detox is recommended. Cocaine withdrawal can range from a few days to months. The risk of returning to use increases as the body attempts to rebalance.

The best thing a person can do to treat their symptoms of coke jaw is to immediately and completely stop using cocaine. From there, a person may want to visit their dentist to diagnose and address any damage or oral health issues from cocaine use and discuss treatment options.

Coke jaw is not a dental problem. It’s a substance abuse problem. Drug use is the most significant obstacle to good oral health. Aside from the direct damage cocaine can do, individuals who use it are less likely to eat well, stay hydrated, and practice good hygiene.

Fortunately, when a cocaine concern is caught and treated early on, the likelihood of long-term harm from coke mouth is small. When the drug is removed, many cases start to self-correct right away. Also, the best treatment programs contain nutritional advice and hygiene tips to restore a winning smile.

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While often lumped together, coke mouth and coke jaw are two different things. Coke mouth is a more encompassing slang term for all oral issues associated with coke addiction. This also applies to the throat, teeth, and gums. Here are some of the common problems associated with coke mouth:


Rubbing cocaine on the gums is one of the most common ways to ingest the substance. Because of this method, many cocaine users experience problems with their periodontal tissue or gums. They can experience a rapid gingival recession or receding gums, resulting in tooth loss. There’s nothing left to hold the molars in place.


We’ve already mentioned how tooth decay can result because of coke jaw. But cocaine is a highly acidic substance that erodes the teeth’ enamel. Not to say that coke is often cut with powerful solvents such as acetone.


C. One of the most concerning long-term effects of taking cocaine orally is oral palate perforation. This is when the upper palate of someone’s mouth starts deteriorating, resulting in ulcerations or holes. These openings can increase the risk of infections and make eating, speaking, and swallowing difficult.

Other short-term and long-term cocaine side effects can include:

  • constricted blood vessels
  • runny nose
  • nose bleeds
  • weight loss
  • mood swings
  • high blood pressure
  • fast heart rate

Cocaine is highly addictive, and long-term abuse of it can also result in uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and cravings when a person stops using cocaine.

Substance use treatment programs differ in the kinds of remedies they offer, and it’s essential to pick a program that handles mental health and addiction.

Treatment options for cocaine addiction can include:

  • medical detox
  • inpatient treatment
  • outpatient treatment
  • individual, group, and family therapy
  • medication management
  • sober and transitional living
  • relapse prevention services
  • peer support groups

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FAQs ( Frequently Asked Questions )


Coke jaw is a slang phrase that’s used to explain the uncontrollable jaw movements of a cocaine user. This can contain clenching and erratic side-to-side movements. Since the mouth is not created to endure these regular mechanical movements, the coke jaw often drives many other issues.


Why does drug abuse cause unusual manners in the first place? Keep in mind that cocaine instantly affects the central nervous system or CNS. Coke is a strong CNS stimulant that speeds up activity in the brain and exciting physical reactions.
This results in sporadic and disorderly movements that are commonly associated with cocaine abuse and coke jaw.


Not all jaw irregular or involuntary movements are caused by substance abuse. Some of them are the effects of certain neurological disorders like cranial dystonia and Tourette syndrome.
So, if you see a loved one with uncontrolled jaw movements, it’s best not to jump to conclusions yet. If there aren’t any other signs of cocaine addiction or cocaine use, then it might be something else altogether. Be sure to look over our other resources on signs of addiction in a loved one before beginning a conversation with someone you think might be experiencing jaw issues caused by cocaine.


Yes! There are plenty of ways to treat coke jaw, but the most effective method is to correct the root cause of the problem: cocaine use. Preventing people from accessing and taking the drug is the surest way to treat coke jaw, gum disease, dental erosion, and other problems that all stem from cocaine use.

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[1]  Shetty S, Pitti V, Satish Babu CL, Surendra Kumar GP, Deepthi BC (September 2010). “Bruxism: a literature review”Journal of Indian Prosthodontic Society
[2] Macedo CR, Silva AB, Machado MA, Saconato H, Prado GF (2007). “Occlusal splints for treating sleep bruxism (tooth grinding)”The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews2010 (4): CD005514. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005514.pub2PMC 8890597PMID 17943862.
[3]  Manfredini D, Lobbezoo F (2009). “Role of psychosocial factors in the etiology of bruxism”. Journal of Orofacial Pain23 (2): 153–66. PMID 19492540.