Meth mouth, also known as the dentist’s worst nightmare, is a result of prolonged meth abuse and addiction. Even with treatment, much of the dental damage done by using or smoking meth can be permanent.
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What Is Meth Mouth?
Meth mouth is the tooth decay and poor dental health that typically occur when someone is addicted to meth or methamphetamines. Meth mouth has been dubbed a “dentist’s worst nightmare” and is the result of a combination of “acidic tooth decay and drug-induced physical changes that occur with meth use.” Meth mouth is often one of the most apparent physical changes that occur when someone abuses meth, alongside changing facial features and skin damage from shooting meth.
As per the Journal of American Dental Association, meth mouth is characterized by severe tooth decay and gum disease, which often causes teeth to fall out or break. The teeth of chronic meth abusers are often blackened, stained, rotting, crumbling, and falling apart. The extensive tooth decay in these individuals is likely due to a combination of drug-induced psychological and physiological damage resulting in dry mouth and long periods of poor oral hygiene.
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Signs of meth mouth include:
- Xerostomia (dry mouth)
- Cracked teeth, loose teeth, or missing teeth
- Gum disease, gingivitis, and periodontitis
- Carious lesions (micro-cavities)
- Bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching)
- Black rotting teeth
- Bad breath
What Causes Meth Mouth?
An individual may develop meth mouth for many reasons. For many people addicted to meth, poor dental health, poor nutrition habits, and lack of regular dental maintenance can be factors. Poor overall hygiene can result from forgetting to brush teeth or combining sugary foods with meth use. Typically, individuals abusing meth maintain poor diets and may seek out sodas and sweets – commonly called buzzing — further damaging their enamel. Smoking meth and eating sugary foods also contributes to cavities. Untreated cavities can lead to nerve damage, tooth damage, and abscesses in the mouth.
Additionally, dental hygiene may seem unimportant if an individual is focusing on maintaining their addiction. Without eating the proper nutrients (such as Vitamin C or Iron), the body’s ability to heal itself is impaired. As a result, people with meth mouth can endure extreme pain because of lesions or abscesses that are unable to fully heal.
Individuals may erode their teeth from grinding due to stimulation from meth.
Chipped teeth exhibited by meth mouth occur from teeth-grinding while high. The acidic components of meth erode and weaken teeth, making them easier to break. Chemicals found in meth like battery acid, drain cleaner, antifreeze, and lantern fluid destroy the body, corroding the mouth as they are too harsh for human consumption.
Another factor of meth mouth occurs is xerostomia, or intense dry mouth. Meth “dries out the salvia glands”, allowing the mouth to produce more bacteria and, eventually, rotting the teeth. This can lead eventually to gum decay.
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How Meth Affects the Rest of the Body
Meth mouth can severely damage an individual’s overall health, affecting the entire body. In addition to blood-born infections from bacteria and open wounds in the mouth, meth abuse can also cause:
- Premature delivery
- Heart problems
- Risk for HIV and hepatitis
- Lead poisoning
- Brain damage
- Meth mite itching (itching caused by nerve sensitivity)
There are significant psychological effects caused by meth abuse like paranoia and aggression that can affect the quality of life in the individual. Meth abuse produces life-threatening health problems that should be treated immediately.
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Treatment For Meth Mouth
Meth is an extremely addictive substance, and nearly 5% of the American population has tried meth at least once. In recent years, meth abuse has become more widespread in rural areas in the US. As of 2017, there were 1.6 million individuals who used meth — this contributed to the $550 million used for drug treatment programs for meth annually.
Meth mouth is just one of the side effects of meth abuse that needs attention. In many, if not most, cases, teeth impacted by meth mouth must be removed, but dental procedures may be able able to correct some of the issues caused by meth mouth. However, even this problem is minor if the individual cannot stop abusing drugs.
Detox is a recommended treatment option to get the body to a meth-free state. The individual could have a higher chance of recovery within the care of a medical professional. Therapists, nurses, doctors and staff will supervise patients seeking recovery and support their transition to sobriety with addiction treatment medications and therapy. Following inpatient or outpatient rehab, there are also support groups to focus on continued sobriety.
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