'Meth mouth' Can Leave Users Toothless

Methamphetamine is a powerfully addictive drug that can seriously damage oral health, destroying a person's smile and natural ability to chew, according to the American Dental Association.

More than 12 million Americans have tried methamphetamine (also known as meth, crank, crystal and speed), which can be swallowed, injected, snorted or smoked, according to the 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The majority of users range between 18 and 34 years of age.

"Meth" users can go from having healthy teeth to extremely sensitive teeth and eventual tooth loss in about a year, warns the ADA. This condition is often called "meth mouth."

"Meth mouth robs people, especially young people, of their teeth and frequently leads to full-mouth extractions and a lifetime of wearing dentures," said ADA President Robert M. Brandjord. "Meth mouth is characterized by rampant tooth decay and teeth described by meth users as blackened, stained, rotting, crumbling or falling apart."

Dr. Brandjord continued, "The extensive tooth decay of meth mouth is attributed to the drug's dry-mouth effect and its propensity to cause cravings for high-calorie carbonated beverages, tooth grinding and clenching, and extended periods of poor oral hygiene."

"Very few people understand the broad dangers methamphetamine poses to the public health of our communities in addition to meth users themselves," said Stephen Pasierb, president and CEO of The Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

"The ADA's warning should serve as a wake-up call to those who use this insidious drug as well as family and friends who are witness to this behavior, but not powerless to intervene and get the user the help they need," Mr. Pasierb said. "There is no safe level of meth use, but treatment and recovery are possible."

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