Meth Mouth

By Dr. Elizabeth Fleming
January 15, 2014
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“Meth Mouth”

Commonly known as crystal meth, meth, crank, speed, glass, or over 100 other different names, methamphetamine can literally ruin your mouth in a very short time.

Seven Ways Methamphetamine Ruins Your Teeth:

1 – It dries out your mouth. -Methamphetamine directly inhibits saliva flow from the salivary glands.  The saliva offers a lot of protection to the teeth.   In short, when the saliva stops flowing, the teeth are left without many defenses.

2 – Crystal meth gives the user a prolonged “high,” which often causes them to pass out. Meth users have a tendency to pass out frequently.  When they pass out, they are breathing through their mouth, which dries out the mouth.  And without saliva circulating in the mouth, the teeth are at risk.

3 – Meth is acidic by nature. This has been debated.  Some people say that meth isn’t acidic.  Some say it is. Pure methamphetamine is NOT acidic, but most street meth contains acidic byproducts.  For example, the most common method of manufacturing meth in the United States is the Red, White, and Blue Method.  This method of methamphetamine synthesis produces hydroiodic acid.  Other acids can be made as byproducts depending on how the methamphetamine is synthesized.

If only those that manufacture meth knew about the devastating effects of acid on the teeth — they’d probably be sure to only sell you pure methamphetamine!

4 – Meth users clench their teeth a lot. Many meth users are anxious and paranoid, mostly due to the effects of the drug on their body.  When they clench their teeth, they are grinding away valuable tooth structure that has already been weakened due to the other effects of meth mentioned in this article.

5 – Meth gives the user a craving for sugary, carbonated drinks. Since the methamphetamine dries out their mouth, meth users often try to alleviate this side effect by reaching for soda or energy drinks.  This only adds insult to injury for their teeth.

6 – Meth destroys the enamel. It does this by causing cavities to form and by releasing toxic chemicals that damage the teeth.  In the book Treatment Planning in Dentistry by Stefanac and Nesbit it says:

“Meth mouth” typically begins with the yellowing of the user’s teeth and rapidly deteriorating enamel “flaking” off from the underlying tooth structure. Repeated use of the drug eventually leaves the user’s teeth looking grayish-brown or black stained, decayed to the gum line, and often nonrestorable. The rapid destruction of tooth enamel is thought to be a result of the heated vapors released by toxic chemicals produced while smoking methamphetamine.

7 – Druggies are concerned about how to get their next high, not about their dental health. If you’re addicted to meth, then you probably spend a great deal of time, energy, and money supporting this habit.  Those with addictions of this nature are unlikely to be seeking routine dental care or even brushing and flossing regularly.

Conclusion

Methamphetamine causes significant harm to the teeth no matter how it is taken.  If methamphetamine is smoked, it is much more harmful for the teeth than when injected.  The book Primary Preventive Dentistry by Norman Harris says this about how methamphetamine is used:

It is thought that smokers [of methamphetamine] have worse dental effects, because the chemicals are brought in direct contact with the oral cavity, causing sores and infections. Injectors of methamphetamine do not experience the same severe dental decay; however, they do experience more severe clenching and grinding. The increased bruxism is attributed to the more powerful effects of the injected drug.

If you or someone you know is addicted to methamphetamine, try to get help as soon as possible.  Methamphetamine doesn’t just affect the teeth, it affects the whole body.

Here’s a good article from Minnesota Public Radio about Ryan Hintz, a recovering meth addict, about how he is overcoming the addiction.

Article courtesy of Dr. Todd Welch, The Science of Dentistry

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