Meth Mouth12 Nov, 2015
Methamphetamine is an inexpensive, easy-to-make illicit drug. It is known by several street names: "meth," "speed," "ice," "chalk," "crank," "fire," "glass," "crystal" and "tina." It is made in tens of thousands of illegal laboratories across the country. According to the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 12.3 million Americans aged 12 years and older (5.2 percent of the population) had tried methamphetamine at least once in their lifetimes, with the majority of past-year users between 18 and 34 years of age. A very sad statistic indeed.
Tweaking is a term used to describe persons using crystal meth. They binge use the drug for days at a time, often stay awake and high for five to thirty days. During this period, the acrid smoke, decreased saliva flow, poor hygiene, lack of dental care, and extended periods without sleep takes a toll on their teeth, as well as their entire mind body and spirit!
What is Meth Mouth?
"Meth Mouth" is a term used to describe the mouth of a methamphetamine user because of the rampant tooth decay that often occurs with the use of this dangerous drug. Using meth can cause decay so bad that the teeth cannot be saved and must be pulled instead. Some dentists are even comparing "meth mouth" to "bottle mouth" a term sometimes used for the mouths of children that have been sent to bed with a bottle of milk or juice repeatedly, causing severe tooth decay.
How Meth Can Damage Your Mouth
Methamphetamine use damages dental health in several ways:
During the "high" produced by this drug, users usually experience cravings for sugary carbonated beverages, which is bad for teeth.
The "high" from this drug lasts about 12 hours, during which time users will probably not brush or floss therefore leaving the sugary substances on their teeth for long periods of time.
The acidic contents of this drug can damage teeth. Ingredients can include battery acid, lantern fuel, antifreeze, hydrochloric acid; drain cleaner, lye and over-the-counter cold medications containing ephedrine.
Users of methamphetamines usually tend to clench or grind their teeth.
Methamphetamines dry up protective saliva around the teeth.
Summary of Meth Mouth
Unfortunately, there is not much that a dentist can do to save the teeth of those with advanced "meth mouth." The dentist may choose to educate the user on the effects of the drug and offer resources such as drug counseling services. However treating a meth addiction is usually a long ongoing process.
Dentists, parents and others should be concerned if they notice patients, family members or friends-especially teenagers and young adults-who have unaccounted-for and accelerated tooth decay. Dental treatment only slows down the problem in meth users. Without the cessation of drug use and a change in life style the teeth will be destroyed along with great psychological and other physiological damage. Quitting is usually only accomplished with social and psychological intervention, due to the addictive nature of the drug. This problem can only be solved when the addict truly wants help. Our awareness of the extreme consequences of this drug use can aid in its prevention, and that is a worthy goal indeed!
Dr. John M. Luckey DDS