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Meth Mouth

 

Meth mouth is a slang term used to describe a form advanced tooth decay due to heavy methamphetamine use. Methamphetamine or meth, is a stimulate that causes its users to crave sugary carbonated beverages, such as dark soda. Meth damages teeth so significantly that teeth can not be saved and must be extracted. Some dentists compare meth mouth to ‘bottle mouth,’ which is a term used to describe the mouths of children that are sent to bed with a bottle continuously causing severe tooth decay.

Meth mouth produces blackened, stained, crumbling, rotting teeth that leaves meth users embarrassed which prevents them from seeking dental care sooner. Heavy meth users do not usually spend time thinking about things such as oral hygiene, and can go days and possibly weeks without brushing their teeth. Another toll that meth can take on a user’s mouth is that methamphetamines cause the user to clench and grind their teeth for extensive amounts of time. The continuous clenching and grinding, combined with cravings of sugary beverages and days without caring for your teeth can produce ‘meth mouth.’

How Meth Damages a User’s Mouth

Let’s take a look at the different ways meth can affect a user’s mouth:

  • The meth ‘high’ can last from 12 hours to 12 days, depending on the amount used
  • Meth causes the user to clench and grind their teeth continuously
  • Meth causes the user to crave sugary, carbonated drinks
  • Sugar turns to acid when inserted into the mouth, coating the teeth with plaque at a much faster rate
  • The acidic contents of the drug damage the teeth. Contents can include antifreeze, cold medication, lantern fuel, drain cleaner and battery acid
  • Meth causes dry mouth, which can lead to ulcers and other dental problems
  • Appetite suppressant which doesn’t allow the proper nutrients to reach the bones, tissues and nerves throughout the body

Thankfully, studies show that over the course of the past 5 years, methamphetamine usage has significantly decreased throughout the United States. It’s still a problem in the Midwest, southwest and western parts of the country, but those regions also show a decrease in meth use. Unfortunately, dentists have not been able to come up with a solution to help patients suffering from meth mouth. In most cases, tooth extraction is the only way to rid the bacteria built up in the teeth and gums.

Oral Problems Associated with Meth Use

There are several different oral health issues or problems associated with meth mouth, including:

  • Cavities
  • Tooth Decay
  • Tooth Extraction
  • Grinding/Clenching of the teeth
  • Dry Mouth
  • Oral Hygiene Negligence
  • Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis (ANUG)
  • Gum Infection

Symptoms of Meth Mouth

Although ‘meth mouth’ got its name from oral problems being associated with methamphetamines, it’s not always meth users who suffer from this disease. People who live under prolonged stress, poor nutrition, poor oral hygiene and high sugar intake can also suffer from meth mouth, without ever touching the drug! With that said, there are numerous symptoms one can watch for, including:

  • Rampant tooth decay, especially around the gum line
  • Recurrent ANUG that is treated then returns repeatedly
  • Broken teeth
  • Attrition of the teeth
  • Abscessed teeth
  • Significantly bad breath
  • Toothaches
  • Fever, malaise or nausea
  • Pain in the gums when eating
  • Headaches, neck aches and jaw aches

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, regardless if you’re a drug user or not, you should seek help from a dentist. Gingivitis is a mild form of periodontal disease that is easily treated. Mouth guards are also available through your dentist to help prevent grinding or clenching (bruxism).

Preventing Meth Mouth

The number one reason why people have meth mouth is due to using the drug methamphetamine. As easy as it is to say, it’s obviously not a drug that is easily stopped. The best way to prevent meth mouth is to avoid using the drug meth. If you are unable to stop or avoid meth, you may want to make an effort to stay away from sugary cravings, and/or begin practicing proper oral health methods while under the influence.

If you need help getting off meth, please visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrationhttp://www.samhsa.gov/

Page updated February 2011

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