Meth Mouth

What is Meth?

Methamphetamine or commonly known as meth and its other forms such as crystal meth and methamphetamine tablets, are the most widely used synthetic drug globally, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) [1]. It’s a highly addictive stimulant that dramatically affects the central nervous system. Crystal meth abuse has devastating effects. It can cause lung disorders, kidney damage, hyperthermia, stroke, and cardiac arrest. Oral or dental disease, including meth mouth, was one of the most prevalent (41.3 percent) medical comorbidities in meth users [2].

What is Meth Mouth?

Meth mouth is a term used to describe the visible effects of oral disease in an individual who uses meth (short for methamphetamine) because of the widespread tooth decay that often happens with the drug’s use. People who use meth may have stained, blackened, broken, or rotting teeth, both due to side effects of the drug itself and related lifestyle factors. The typical decay pattern involves the facial and cervical areas of both the maxillary and mandibular teeth with eventual progression to frank coronal involvement.

Eventually, the best course of treatment for a person struggling with oral disease caused by meth use, such as meth mouth, is to treat the addiction. Moreover, treating meth addiction is usually a long, continuous process requiring medical detox and ongoing social support and therapy to fully recover and prevent a relapse.

Meth Mouth
Depending on the stage of decay, meth mouth can make teeth appear stained, blackened, or rotten. As the teeth become more damaged, they can be worn down into nubs as they are eaten away by bacteria and acid.

Statistics on Meth Mouth

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) [2], researchers examined 571 meth users and found that:

  • 96 % of them had cavities (a hole or other damage to the outside layers of a tooth).
  • Adults who said they used meth “moderately” or “heavily” were twice as likely to have untreated cavities as “light” users—“light” users had used the drug for less than 10 days over the previous month. If a cavity goes untreated, it grows larger and larger, it can cause a really bad toothache, the cavity can become infected, and the tooth may have to be removed.
  • 58% of the meth users had untreated tooth decay, compared with 27 percent of the general population in the U.S.
  • Only 23 percent kept all of their natural teeth, compared to 48 percent of the general population in the U.S. That’s a lot of additional tooth loss for the people who used meth.

What Causes Meth Mouth?

There are many reasons why a person may develop a meth mouth. For many individuals addicted to meth, poor nutrition habits, poor dental health, and lack of proper dental maintenance can be factors. Poor overall hygiene can result from combining sugary foods with meth use or forgetting to brush teeth. Usually, individuals abusing meth maintain poor diets and may seek out sweets and sodas– commonly called buzzing — further damaging their enamel. Smoking meth and eating sugary foods also contribute to cavities. Untreated cavities can lead to tooth damage, nerve damage, and sores in the mouth.

How Meth Can Damage Your Mouth

Bruxism

Meth use can lead to the development of bruxism. It is a condition in which individuals clench and grind their teeth. Methamphetamine stimulates the brain, causing individuals to grind their teeth. Grinding can cause teeth to loosen or break and worsens the periodontal disease. Moreover, it can lead to a feeling of stiff facial muscles and temporomandibular joint disorder.

Meth Mouth
The American Dental Association reports that it is possible for a user of meth to go from normal, healthy teeth to decaying teeth (“meth mouth”) within a year.

Reduced Salivary Flow (Xerostomia)

Crystal meth use can lead to xerostomia, or dry mouth, reducing protective saliva around the teeth. The lack of saliva makes it difficult for the person to swallow, more challenging to talk, and increases the chances of developing tooth decay since saliva removes bacteria away from the teeth. The ducts of the salivary glands produce saliva that is the first defense in fighting bad bacteria in the mouth, buffering acids, and protecting the teeth. The enzymes in saliva keep the mouth moist and in a state of homeostasis; that is, a pH balance with just the right quantity of acid in the mouth.

Lack of Dental Hygiene

During meth high, that can last up to twelve hours; meth users often do not follow good dental hygiene such as flossing or brushing, which leave the sugary substances on their teeth for long periods of time. This can be harmful and can cause cavities in the teeth.

Drug Additives

The acidic contents of meth can also damage teeth. Drug additives can include hydrochloric acid, antifreeze, battery acid, lantern fuel, drain cleaner, lye, and over-the-counter cold medications containing ephedrine. The acidic environment often leads to erosion, and when mouth pH drops below critical levels, tooth decay is the result.

Poor Diet

People under the influence of meth and often during withdrawal usually experience cravings for carbonated beverages and sugary foods, which are harmful to the teeth.

Lesions

A person who smokes meth presents with burns or lesions on their lips, gingival, inside cheeks or hard palate. Individuals who snort meth may manifest burns in the back of their throats. Meth use decreases the user’s ability to fight infection and heal following the injury.

Deferred Pain

The meth user may not experience the pain to be expected from such widespread decay because meth can lessen or block the effects of dental pain. The patient may use their extensive decay to try to obtain prescription pain medications.

What are the Signs of Meth Mouth?

An individual who chronically uses meth may also look malnourished and have skin sores on their face and body. They usually have very high acidity levels in their mouths, and this isn’t helped by what they’re eating and drinking. A person with this disease may have a hard time eating due to pain or lose teeth. Because of this, they may prefer to eat soft foods or avoid eating.

3 Stages of Meth Mouth

First Stage

  • Cavities, bad breath, and swollen, red gums develop. Cavities usually begin developing between the front teeth and on the outside of the rear teeth.

Second Stage

  • The tooth decay advances, the gums start to recede, and the lips form sores.

Final Stage

  • The tooth decay spreads to the gum line, and the user’s teeth have started to fall out.

Tips on Avoiding Meth Mouth

The best way to prevent meth mouth is to quit using meth altogether. It’s appropriate to seek addiction treatment immediately. Rehab at a credible and effective treatment center like We Level Up NJ is the best way to free yourself from meth abuse and keep meth mouth from getting out of control.

  • Follow prescribed oral or dental hygiene at home, including flossing and brushing twice a day
  • Visit the dentist twice a year and take regular teeth cleanings
  • Drinking lots of water can keep the body and mouth hydrated
  • Chew sugar-free gum to help increase the saliva in the mouth
  • Discuss with your dentist about getting a retainer if you grind your teeth when you sleep

How is Meth Mouth Treated?

Obviously, part of the recovery process is to get the person off the meth. Once a person is on a path to recovery, a dentist can make suggestions for repairing their smile. There are various ways a dentist can take to address the dental problems connected with meth mouth.

Veneers are thin coverings that are placed over the front and visible part of the tooth. They look like natural teeth and works well with stained teeth. Also, a dentist can replace missing teeth with prosthetic devices, such as dentures or implants. A dentist can fill any cavities and may recommend a mouthguard to help with teeth grinding. When treating a person with meth mouth, dentists may use preventive measures such as topical fluorides to preserve teeth for the long term.

Find the Right Treatment Plan at We Level Up NJ

Talk to one of our team members today to learn more about our treatment programs and how we can help you recover from meth mouth as a result of crystal meth addiction. Our team at We Level Up NJ specializes in creating an ideal environment and providing effective therapies to help individuals who struggle with crystal meth abuse. We will develop a personalized treatment plan and lead you to recovery. Get started today!

Meth mouth
For more information on how you can help a loved struggling with meth abuse, call us at We Level Up NJ
Sources

[1] UNODC – https://www.unodc.org/documents/scientific/Global_Smart_Update_20_web.pdf

[2] NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2947197/

[3] NCBI – https://archives.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/meth-mouth-some-ugly-numbers

[4] We Level UpRehab » Meth Addiction Treatment