What Is Meth Mouth & Is It Possible to Fix Your Teeth?

What Is Meth Mouth & Is It Possible to Fix Your Teeth?
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What Is Meth Mouth & Is It Possible to Fix Your Teeth?Clinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. What is Meth Mouth?
  2. Side Effects
  3. Are Drugs the Only Cause of Meth Mouth?
  4. Treatment Options
  5. Psychological Effects of Treatment
  6. References
Many people associate the use of methamphetamine, or meth, with severe health issues like stroke, heart problems, anxiety and sleep deprivation. Besides these common psychological and physical health effects, this highly addictive recreational drug can also cause irreversible dental complications, including meth mouth.

What is Meth Mouth?

The term meth mouth refers to the overall appearance of the teeth and gums of a methamphetamine user. Signs include:

  • Bad breath
  • Gum infection and swelling from uncontrolled bacterial growth in the addict’s mouth
  • Cavities
  • Stained, blackened teeth
  • Cracked teeth
  • Missing teeth

Meth addicts with this condition often experience severe dental issues, some of which are difficult to treat and others that are untreatable.

One study found that 96% of meth users have cavities, more than half have untreated decay in their teeth, and nearly one-third were missing six or more teeth.

Time-lapse photos of meth addicts can be dramatic in that they show the carnage the drug wreaks on a user’s smile and mouth.

Damage can be so extensive that the meth user experiences difficulty chewing or speaking. With the stained, cracked and falling-out teeth, the user also loses their natural, beautiful smile.

Side Effects of Meth Mouth

These meth mouth effects occur gradually, with long-term addicts suffering the most severe dental caries. Researchers believe that smoking or snorting the street drug causes such damage in the following ways:

  • Dry mouth: Meth can trigger xerostomia, causing an acute saliva deficiency in the mouth and creating ideal conditions for bacterial infection. Such infestation may impact the user’s teeth and gum health.
  • Poor oral hygiene: Meth addicts often neglect daily brushing, flossing, and other routine oral care practices that promote dental health.
  • Meth is acidic: Some of the drug’s ingredients are corrosive enough to eat away at otherwise healthy teeth.
  • Poor dietary habits: Using methinduces unhealthy cravings for sugary, carbonated beverages, which can accelerate tooth decay.
  • Teeth grinding: This habit can gradually weaken and damage the victim’s teeth.

Are Drugs the Only Cause of Meth Mouth?

Recreational drugs aren’t the only cause of meth mouth triggers and effects. For example, multiple other factors can inhibit saliva production, causing dry mouth.

They include:

  • Prescription medication like pain relievers, antidepressants, and high blood pressure drugs
  • Aging
  • Cancer treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation
  • Health conditions like oral thrush, diabetes, and stroke

Tooth decay and gum disease have other causes too, including:

  • Not brushing and flossing teeth daily
  • Consuming sugary foods and beverages like sweets and carbonated drinks

Meth Mouth Treatment Options

Once you notice or experience any meth mouth symptom, you should seek professional assistance right away. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may be able to prevent irreparable damage by starting early treatment.

Overcoming your addiction should be a top priority as it is the root cause of your dental caries. For this, you may need to check into a rehab center offering meth treatment programs that suit your specific needs.   

Some effective meth rehabilitation plans that can help you quit and halt teeth damage from meth mouth include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Contingency management

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This therapy aims at changing your thinking as the first step to altering behavior that leads to meth consumption. To improve treatment outcomes and minimize the risk of relapse, your therapist may recommend a comprehensive treatment plan, such as the 16-week Matrix Model.

The Matrix Model comprises multiple components. These are:

  • CBT to instill positive behavior
  • Family education
  • Individual and group counseling
  • 12-step addiction recovery programs
  • Drug testing
  • Training and encouragement for non-drug related distractions like working out or listening to music and healthier ways to cope with stress

Contingency Management Programs

With these interventions, meth addicts are offered tangible rewards to encourage them not to use the drug and accept treatment. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has effectively utilized one such program before—Motivational Incentives for Enhancing Drug Abuse Recovery (MIEDAR).

Besides addiction rehab, you should also seek dental care as soon as possible. Your dentist will recommend appropriate meth mouth treatment after evaluating your specific situation.

General treatment/management options for the dental issue include:

  • Proper oral hygiene: As you recover from meth addiction, you’ll need to start brushing and flossing your teeth daily.
  • Dietary restrictions: This preventive measure may entail swapping sugary carbonated drinks for healthier alternatives like water.
  • Tooth removal: Extraction is often necessary in severe tooth decay cases.
  • Tooth replacement: Dentures and implants can restore your smile after tooth removal.
  • Fluoride treatments: Your doctor may prescribe fluoride mouth wash, paste, or gel to prevent future dental caries.
  • Veneers: Patients with discolored, chipped, or broken teeth may use dental veneers to restore their appearance.
  • Dental fillings: These can restore the appearance and function of teeth with cavities.

Psychological Effects of Treatment

Quitting meth may have some short- or long-term psychological effects like:

  • Paranoia
  • Mood swings
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety

However, these effects are often a small price to pay for a full addiction recovery and restoration of your mental and physical health. After undergoing successful meth mouth treatment and dental restorative procedures, you can once again enjoy the confidence of a natural smile.

References

Meth Mouth: How Methamphetamine Use Affects Dental Health. American Dental Association. Date Fetched: August 31, 2021.

Oral Ulcers and Infections. Dentalcare.com. Date Fetched: August 31, 2021.

Dry Mouth. Mayo Clinic. Date Fetched: August 31, 2021.

Methamphetamine. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Date Fetched: August 31, 2021.

Methamphetamine: Implications for the Dental Team. Dentalcare.com. Date Fetched: August 31, 2021.

Dental disease patterns in methamphetamine users. The Journal of the American Dental Association. Date fetched: September 9, 2021.

Meth Mouth: How Methamphetamine Use Affects Dental Health. American Dental Association. Date fetched: September 9, 2021.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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