Meth mouth is an unattractive and unhealthy consequence of using methamphetamine. In some cases, it leads to tooth loss.
How Meth Use Affects Mouth Health
Meth mouth refers to the tooth decay that people who use this drug may experience. The drug user's teeth appear stained or black in color, or may even be rotting. This is not only a problem for people who are long-term meth users; meth mouth can occur in people who have only used the drug for a relatively short time.
There is no way to determine in advance which people are more likely to develop this condition. Everyone who uses meth is taking the risk that they will lose their teeth because of their drug use.
Theories About Causes
Researchers have yet to discover the exact cause of this condition. Some reports have indicated that users experience dental problems because the drug contains corrosive ingredients, such as:
- Anhydrous Ammonia (An ingredient used in fertilizers)
- Lithium (Commonly used to make batteries)
- Red Phosphorus (Used on books of matches or matchboxes)
When meth is smoked or snorted, it may wear away at the protective enamel on the teeth, and this leads to damage.
Another theory about the cause of meth mouth has to do with the way meth affects the user's body when it is ingested. Once the drug hits the blood stream, it causes blood vessels to shrink. If the blood vessels leading to the mouth and jaw region are repeatedly starved of the blood needed to keep them healthy, the vessels can shut down and die. The tissues in the mouth can also decay as a result of meth use. People who use meth also experience xerostomia, or "dry mouth". A certain amount of saliva is necessary to keep the mouth healthy by neutralizing the acids that are present in this part of the body. Without an adequate amount of moisture, the acids will attack the teeth and gums. Weak spots will develop as a result, and this can lead to cavities.
Meth users may experience cravings for foods and drinks containing a high amount of sugar. Eating or drinking sugary substances also increases the likelihood of tooth decay. Combine this type of unhealthy diet with a lack of brushing and flossing, and developing meth mouth becomes much more probable among users.
Main Ways to Treat the Condition
In some cases, meth mouth can be treated if the user sees a dental hygienist. The hygienist will apply concentrated fluoride to the teeth to attempt to slow down the tooth decay. Once this course of treatment has been completed, a dentist will need to determine whether or not the teeth can be restored. In severe cases of meth mouth, the teeth will need to be removed and the patient fitted for dentures or partial dentures.
Stopping the Progression of Meth Mouth
People who are concerned that they may have meth mouth can stop the progression of this condition by stopping their drug use. Meth users can combat dry mouth by drinking water instead of soft drinks or other sweetened beverages. Practicing good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly and seeing a dentist will also help to lower the risk of developing meth mouth.