What is Meth mouth?

What is Meth mouth?

Meth mouth is the tooth decay and poor dental health that typically occur when someone is addicted to meth or methamphetamines. Meth mouth has been dubbed a “dentist’s worst nightmare” and is the result of a combination of “acidic tooth decay and drug-induced physical changes that occur with meth use.” Meth mouth is often one of the most apparent physical changes that occur when someone abuses meth, alongside changing facial features and skin damage from shooting meth.

Meth Mouth
Meth mouth is the tooth decay and poor dental health that typically occur when someone is addicted to meth.

As per the Journal of American Dental Association, meth mouth is characterized by severe tooth decay and gum disease, which often causes teeth to fall out or break. The teeth of chronic meth abusers are often blackened, stained, rotting, crumbling, and falling apart. The extensive tooth decay in these individuals is likely due to a combination of drug-induced psychological and physiological damage resulting in dry mouth and long periods of poor oral hygiene. [1]

Signs of meth mouth include:

  • Xerostomia (dry mouth)
  • Cracked teeth, loose teeth, or missing teeth
  • Lockjaw
  • Gum disease, gingivitis, and periodontitis
  • Carious lesions (micro-cavities)
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching)
  • Black rotting teeth
  • Bad breath

Meth Mouth: Meth Addiction Statistics

Meth Addiction is a common condition that affects more Americans than one would think. For example, The National Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) reports that in 2014 approximately 53 people per 100,000 were receiving care at a specialized addiction treatment facility for issues involving methamphetamine. That’s only the number of people that were having rehabilitation treatment, not the actual number of people suffering from Meth Addiction. [1]  As of 2015, around 6 percent of the American population (aged 12 and older) had tried it at least once, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports. [2] 

What is Methamphetamine?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It was developed early in the 20th century from its parent drug, amphetamine, and was used originally in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. Like amphetamine, methamphetamine causes increased activity and talkativeness, decreased appetite, and a pleasurable sense of well-being or euphoria. 

However, methamphetamine differs from amphetamine in that, at comparable doses, much greater amounts of the drug get into the brain, making it a more potent stimulant. It also has longer-lasting and more harmful effects on the central nervous system. These characteristics make it a drug with a high potential for widespread misuse. [3]  

meth mouth
Meth is a crystalline powder that is most commonly white, though it can be yellow, pink, or brown.

Methamphetamine was originally prescribed as a decongestant and weight loss aid, methamphetamine was once widely and legally available in tablet and injectable forms throughout the U.S.  However, a large population abused these products for the stimulant effects, effectively prompting the FDA to restrict and regulate the drug as a schedule II controlled substance in 1970. 

There is currently only one prescription methamphetamine drug still on the market, Desoxyn, which is used to treat obesity and severe attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The majority of people that are addicted to methamphetamine use the drug in its illicit forms: meth and crystal meth. Meth is a crystalline powder that is most commonly white, though it can be yellow, pink, or brown. It is odorless, bitter, and can be dissolved in liquid. It’s most commonly consumed via smoking, snorting, or injection. In some cases, it’s compressed into a pill and can be taken orally. Crystal meth is clear or blue and takes the shape of coarse crystals that are typically smoked. 

What Causes Meth Mouth?

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

Additionally, dental hygiene may seem unimportant if an individual is focusing on maintaining their addiction. Without eating the proper nutrients (such as Vitamin C or Iron), the body’s ability to heal itself is impaired. As a result, people with meth mouth can endure extreme pain because of lesions or abscesses that are unable to fully heal.

meth mouth
An individual may develop meth mouth for many reasons. For many people addicted to meth, poor dental health, poor nutrition habits, and lack of regular dental maintenance can be factors.

Chipped teeth exhibited by meth mouth occur from teeth-grinding while high. The acidic components of meth erode and weaken teeth, making them easier to break. Chemicals found in meth like battery acid, drain cleaner, antifreeze, and lantern fluid destroy the body, corroding the mouth as they are too harsh for human consumption.

Another factor of meth mouth that occurs is xerostomia or intense dry mouth. Meth dries out the salivary glands, allowing the mouth to produce more bacteria and, eventually, rotting the teeth. This can lead eventually to gum decay.

Meth Mouth: How Meth Affects the Rest of the Body

Meth mouth can severely damage an individual’s overall health, affecting the entire body. In addition to blood-borne infections from bacteria and open wounds in the mouth, meth abuse can also cause:

  • Premature delivery
  • Hyperthermia
  • Convulsions
  • Heart problems
  • Risk for HIV and hepatitis
  • Lead poisoning
  • Stroke
  • Brain damage
  • Meth mite itching (itching caused by nerve sensitivity)

There are significant psychological effects caused by meth abuse like paranoia and aggression that can affect the quality of life in the individual. Meth abuse produces life-threatening health problems that should be treated immediately.

Treatment For Meth Mouth

Meth mouth is just one of the side effects of meth abuse that needs attention. In many, if not most, cases, teeth impacted by meth mouth must be removed, but dental procedures may be able to correct some of the issues caused by meth mouth. However, even this problem is minor if the individual cannot stop abusing drugs.

Detox is a recommended treatment option to get the body to a meth-free state. The individual could have a higher chance of recovery within the care of a medical professional. Therapists, nurses, doctors, and staff will supervise patients seeking recovery and support their transition to sobriety with addiction treatment medications and therapy. Following inpatient or outpatient rehab, there are also support groups to focus on continued sobriety.

Meth Mouth
In many, if not most, cases, teeth impacted by meth mouth must be removed, but dental procedures may be able to correct some of the issues caused by meth mouth.

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) reports that the sooner someone receives help for meth abuse, the better the long-term prognosis is. Meth is highly addictive, and the emotional lows and severe drug cravings associated with its use can make relapse highly likely. [4]

It is important to stay vigilant and for an individual to remain in an addiction treatment program for long enough to form healthy habits, to allow new brain connections to form, and to learn relapse prevention techniques to control cravings.

Behavioral therapies are usually considered the ideal form of treatment for meth addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. [2]  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) uses both individual and group sessions to teach stress management, coping tools, communication, and other life skills to maintain abstinence and improve thinking and behavior patterns overall.

Another form of behavioral therapy used for meth and stimulant addiction is one that uses motivational incentives, or contingency management, as a method to maintain sobriety. With this program, individuals are rewarded for clean drug tests, and this can help to boost treatment compliance and the motivation to continue to remain drug-free.

Support groups, such as the 12-Step-based program Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA), can connect individuals with peers who can relate to what they are going through and offer hope, encouragement, and tips on remaining abstinent. Family therapy, counseling, and educational programs can all help to promote a lasting recovery as well.

Methamphetamine can cause long-term damage to the brain, which can require specialized treatment and continuous care over a sustained period of time to promote abstinence. With proper treatment, individuals can learn to manage the possible side effects of repeated abuse and disruption to the brain, and minimize instances of relapse for a healthy recovery. 

Reclaim your life with Meth Mouth Treatment

Meth addiction is a serious condition that can cause several health problems, like Meth Mouth. We Level Up Treatment Center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from meth addiction with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.

Sources

[1] Journal of American Dental Association (jada.ada.org)

[2] National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (www.drugabuse.gov)

[3] Methamphetamine Research Report. What is methamphetamine? – National Institute on Drug Abuse (www.drugabuse.gov)

[4] The National Library of Medicine – (www.nlm.nih.gov)