Meth mouth is a term used to describe the damaging effects of methamphetamine use on the mouth. The chemicals in meth can result in serious dental concerns, including severe gum disease and cavities, permanent brain damage and even death. While domestic production of the drug has slowed down, meth smuggled into the United States is available, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Nearly one-third of government agencies surveyed by the DEA reported that meth was the greatest drug threat in their areas.
Being aware of the dangers of meth use and the treatment options available for those who may be addicted to the drug can help individuals make informed choices that lead to a healthier mouth and body.
Oral Effects of Meth
According to a study published in the South African Dental Journal (SADJ), cavities, tooth decay and missing teeth are much more common in individuals who use meth compared to non-users. This may be due to poor oral hygiene, poor diet and increased sugar intake, which are associated with meth users.
More than half of meth users surveyed in the SADJ study reported grinding their teeth due to hyperactive facial muscles. Grinding can cause teeth to break or loosen and increases the risk of periodontal disease. Additionally, it can lead to the feeling of stiff facial muscles and temporomandibular joint disorder.
Meth can also reduce salivary flow, leading many users to experience dry mouth. The lack of saliva makes it hard to swallow, more difficult to speak and can also heighten the chances of developing tooth decay, since saliva washes bacteria away from the teeth.
Signs of meth mouth include broken or stained teeth, as well as teeth that are falling out or severely decayed. Should you be experiencing these symptoms or have a family member you're concerned about, contact your dentist for an evaluation immediately.
Treatment for Meth Mouth
The first step to getting healthier is getting help for the meth addiction. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The service can help you find local treatment facilities or support groups for yourself or for a loved one
Once an individual is on a path to recovery, a dentist can make recommendations for how to repair their smile. Any smile can be restored, and there are many routes a dentist could take to address meth mouth concerns. Stained teeth may benefit from veneers, and missing teeth can be replaced with prosthetic devices, such as dentures or implants. A dentist can fill any cavities and may recommend a mouth guard to help with teeth grinding. The American Dental Association notes that when treating patients with meth mouth, preventive measures like topical fluorides may be implemented to protect the teeth into the future.
Each patient's needs and concerns are different, so your dentist will work closely with you to establish a unique treatment plan. They will emphasize that establishing healthy lifestyle habits, like good dietary choices and daily brushing and flossing, will help you avoid any further dental problems. Finding a dentist you can trust and talking with them about your goals will help you restore confidence in your smile.