What is Coke Jaw?

coke jaw

Cocaine is an extremely potent stimulant drug that is highly addictive. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Cocaine is a Schedule II drug, which means that it has a high potential for abuse but can be administered by a doctor for legitimate medical uses, such as local anesthesia for some eye, ear, and throat surgeries.”[1]

While cocaine can be used medicinally, it is extremely rare. More often than not, cocaine is manufactured, sold, and bought illegally. The NIDA reports that 4.8 million people admitted to abusing cocaine in 2021.[2]

Cocaine addiction is a serious condition that can lead to a multitude of health concerns, including panic attacks, poor blood flow in the gastrointestinal tract, disruptions to neural pathways in the brain, and overdoses.[3] One of the most common side effects of long-term cocaine abuse is known as “coke jaw.”

Understanding Coke Jaw

Coke jaw is a common nickname for random and spastic movements of the muscles in your face and neck that are caused by the stimulant effects that cocaine has on your central nervous system. Stimulant drug abuse can lead to uncontrollable movements like rapid blinking, twitching of the extremities, foot tapping, and jaw clenching.

Typically, when someone is abusing cocaine in large amounts you can observe random movements of their jaw. Oftentimes, this looks like moving the jaw from side to side or clenching. Unfortunately, these movements can lead to an array of issues, including thinned or cracked enamel on your teeth.

These strange jaw movements occur when the body is attempting to expel the extra energy caused by cocaine. Due to the increased energy users experience, if they attempt to sit still their bodies may begin to move in rapid and uncontrollable ways. While this might not seem like a severe side-effect of substance abuse, coke jaw can lead to an array of adverse health effects.

Common Effects of Coke Jaw

The erratic movements of the jaw associated with cocaine abuse can lead to additional adverse effects. Many of these effects are treatable by overcoming addiction and abstaining from cocaine.

Common side effects of coke jaw include:

Jaw Pain

The most common consequence of coke jaw is pain. When you are constantly moving your jaw side to side and clenching, your jaw will become sore and fatigued. Likely, you will not experience jaw pain until the cocaine wears off because cocaine is an analgesic that can reduce pain.

It is important to note that most people who abuse cocaine binge on it, meaning they take multiple doses over a period of time to stay intoxicated for several hours. Cocaine binges can result in rapid jaw movements or clenching for extended periods of time, leading to severe pain.

Dry Mouth and Perforated Palate

Similar to coke jaw, there is another term to describe the effects cocaine abuse has on your mouth. “Coke mouth” can include a variety of symptoms such as dry mouth, dental erosion, and even perforations in your oral palate.

Frequently abusing cocaine can cause perforations in your septum when you are snorting the drug. Over time, this perforation can spread to the roof of your mouth.[4] This is one of the most severe physical health effects of long-term cocaine abuse.


Oftentimes, people who abuse cocaine rub the excess powder on their gums after they snort the drug. When you are rubbing this substance on your gums and experiencing rapid jaw movements, your likelihood of developing periodontitis increases.[5] Periodontitis is characterized by an infection of the gums that leads to tooth loss and receding gums.

Teeth Grinding

One of the main symptoms of coke jaw is teeth grinding, also known as bruxism. Grinding your teeth excessively can lead to several adverse effects on the health of your mouth and teeth.

Some of the adverse effects of bruxism include:[6]

  • Face, neck, and shoulder pain
  • A painful jaw can lead to a condition called temporomandibular disorder (TMD)
  • Worn-down or broken teeth
  • Increased sensitivity
  • Loss of teeth
  • Headaches
  • Earache
  • Disturbed sleep

Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD)

Coke jaw can also lead to temporomandibular disorder (TMD). According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, “Temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) are a group of more than 30 conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and muscles that control jaw movement.”[6]

These conditions can lead to an array of unwanted symptoms, including:

  • Pain in the jaw joint
  • Pain that spreads to the face and neck
  • Stiffness of the jaw
  • Limited movement or locking of the jaw
  • Ringing in the ears or hearing loss
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in the way your upper and lower teeth fit together

Find Help for Cocaine Addiction

Because long-term cocaine abuse can lead to coke jaw and numerous other dental and jaw issues, it’s important to seek professional help. Attending a reputable drug rehab program can provide you with the tools and support you need to achieve long-term recovery.

At Moving Mountains Recovery Center, we can provide you with highly individualized care that addresses each one of your needs and concerns. To learn more about our cocaine addiction treatment program, contact us today.


    1. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-cocaine
    2. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-scope-cocaine-use-in-united-states
    3. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-are-long-term-effects-cocaine-use
    4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5786413/
    5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9182745/
    6. https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/tmd#symptoms
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