What Is Meth Mouth?
Chronic meth use can lead to severe gum disease and tooth decay that causes blackened, broken, crumbling, and rotting teeth.
Meth mouth is characterized by extensive tooth decay and gum disease. More rarely, this set of conditions may be referred to as “crank decay” or “meth teeth.”
Meth mouth can be severe and in many cases irreversible. The greater the frequency of abuse, the more serious the decay and damage.
In an addicted state, many people will continue to use a drug despite the negative consequences to their health. Along with fear or a sense of shame, this may prevent a person from getting the dental care they need.
About Meth Mouth
One study found that cigarette smokers, women, and people who were 30 years old or more had a greater likelihood of having tooth decay and gum disease.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), when compared to people who don’t use the drug, those who abuse meth experience periodontal disease and toothlessness more frequently. They also reported that people who use the drug were:
- four times as likely to have a history of cavities.
- two times as likely to have untreated cavities.
- two times as likely to have two or more decayed, filled, or missing teeth.
The dry mouth caused by meth abuse can also cause inflammation of the gums, infection, and inflammation of the tongue, inflammation of the lips, and a yeast infection of the mouth called oral thrush.
Meth abuse may cause other problems in the mouth, jaw, and face, including bruxism, clenching or grinding, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), myofascial pain, and trismus, otherwise known as lockjaw. People who snort meth may also burn the back of their throat.
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What Causes Meth Mouth?
Why does meth rot your teeth? Meth mouth is thought to begin due to both psychological and physiological changes that result from drug use, according to the ADA.
Despite popular belief, when compared to snorting or injection, smoking the drug doesn’t cause higher rates of dental disease. Meth mouth can begin from any way of using the drug, including when the drug is mixed with other substances.
When a person takes meth, they may develop uncontrollable jaw clenching or teeth grinding. If this happens on a regular basis, such as with chronic drug use, a person’s teeth may crack.
Meth’s effects are long-lasting and people frequently take the drug in binges or back-to-back doses. While under the influence, a person may neglect important habits of personal care, such as brushing their teeth. Because of this, many people who abuse the drug have poor oral hygiene.
Plaque and bacteria can build up during periods of poor oral health care. The acid that’s produced from this bacteria can pit the tooth enamel, the damage that can eventually become a cavity. Meth itself is acidic, which can contribute to this damage even more.
Meth can decrease a person’s appetite, leading to a poor diet and malnourishment, states that can weaken teeth. While on the drug, people frequently crave carbonated, high-calorie, sugar-laden beverages. Sugar can feed harmful bacteria and create plaque acids that damage tooth enamel.
Meth decreases the amount of protective saliva that’s in a person’s mouth, leading to xerostomia or dry mouth. This state can increase the risk of tooth decay as well. People who also drink or smoke, behaviors that are common with meth abuse, can have more severe xerostomia.
Even more, oral tissues may not receive the blood they need, due to the way meth shrinks blood vessels. Without this vital blood, a person’s teeth and gums can become unhealthy.
Signs Of Meth Mouth
If family members see unexplainable tooth decay that seems to rapidly get worse, it may be a sign of meth abuse. A person who chronically uses meth may also look malnourished and have skin sores on their face and body.
Someone with meth mouth may have trouble eating due to pain or loose teeth. Because of this, they may prefer to eat soft foods or avoid eating.
Meth mouth can progress in stages:
- first stage: Bad breath, cavities, and swollen, red gums develop. Cavities typically start developing between the front teeth and on the outside of the rear teeth.
- second stage: The tooth decay accelerates, the gums begin to recede, and the lips develop sores.
- final stage: The tooth decay extends to the gum line and a person’s teeth have started to fall out.
Signs and symptoms of meth mouth include teeth that are:
- falling apart
A person’s teeth may also become very flat from continuously grinding them When cavities become severe, the tooth can break off at the root.
Meth Mouth Treatments
Quite often, when the damage and decay from meth mouth are severe, the teeth cannot be treated and must be extracted. However, depending on the situation, a dentist may be able to do certain work to help a person.
A thorough evaluation will help dental professionals create a personalized care plan for people seeking treatment for meth mouth. Treatment may include:
- fillings for cavities
- mouth guards for teeth grinding or clenching
- veneers for stained teeth
- dentures or implants for missing teeth
If a person is still using meth, the dental provider should be careful when using general anesthesia, local anesthetics with a vasoconstrictor, nitrous oxide, sedatives, or when writing a prescription for narcotics (opioid painkillers), as cautioned by the ADA.
Establishing healthy habits of oral care, such as brushing and flossing, can also help a person to have better oral health. Since meth abuse can cause malnourishment, eating a nutritious diet can also be beneficial at this time.
Getting Treatment For Meth Mouth And Addiction
The key to preventing meth mouth or further damage to the teeth, body, and mind is quitting this dangerous drug.
Finding a comprehensive treatment program for meth can help a person build the skills they need to lead a healthier, drug-free life.
Contact Addiction Campuses today for more information on meth abuse, addiction, and treatment.Article Sources
American Dental Association - https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/methamphetamine
Mouth Healthy - https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/m/meth-mouth
US National Library of Medicine - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5364727/