Dental problems are
common among drug users. Many do not take care of their teeth on a
regular basis and most do not see a dentist often.
Meth users face some specific issues with their teeth and mouth, partly
due to the
ingredients and method
Meth mouth includes the
direct and side effects of the drug and lifestyle choices of the user.
Dentists and dental hygienists
are urged to become familiar with the symptoms and what precautions to
take when treating an abuser. While the symptoms alone do not prove
Meth use, taken together with other signs, they may help health workers
Photo Gallery of Meth
and sulfuric acids, ether, red phosphorus and lye - key ingredients in
Meth manufacturing - are all corrosive and will cause skin burns even when
used properly. When a person smokes Meth, these substances are heated,
vaporized and swirl throughout the user's mouth. They irritate and burn
the sensitive skin inside the mouth, create sores and lead to infection.
Chronic Meth smokers have teeth rotted to the gum line from the continuous
affect of the vapors on tooth enamel.
Snorting Meth also causes chemical damage to teeth. Snorting draws the
caustic substances down the nasal passages, draining in the back of the
throat and bathing the teeth with corrosive substances.
Injecting Meth has no direct impact on dental health, but as you will see,
habitual use of the drug does have side effects that do lead to damage.
Saliva acts as a buffer against acidic substances in the mouth,
neutralizing it and protecting teeth against acidic foods like lemons,
acid from the gut or acidic plaque. The average person creates around one
liter of saliva a day. If saliva production is reduced, oral bacteria
levels can increase ten times over normal levels.
Meth dries out the salivary glands. Without saliva, the acidic substances
can eat away at the minerals in tooth enamel, causing holes or weak spots
that turn into cavities. Other medications dry the mouth but Meth is
Meth users are notorious for trying to treat cottonmouth with lots of
sugary soda. The bacteria that feed on the sugars in the mouth secrete
acid, which leads to more tooth decay. Also, Meth users arenít likely to
floss, brush and rinse when high.
A typical cavity starts in-between two teeth. It eventually invades the
tooth and destroys it from the inside out. Crank decay invariably starts
at the gum line - it eventually spreads around the entire tooth, eating
swathes of enamel in its wake.
Because the drug can make them feel anxious or nervous, causing them to
clench or grind their teeth, regular Meth users may develop cracks in
Teeth and gums need blood to stay healthy. Meth causes the vessels that
supply blood to oral tissues to shrink up. Reduced blood supply causes
tissues to break down. With repeated shrinking, the blood vessels donít
recover and tissues die.
The exact rate of
Meth mouth is unknown, but dentists who practice in areas where people
have regular access to the drug are beginning to see a pattern. The
following is from a January, 2003 article by Reuters Health Information:
"Dr. Eric Curtis, a
dentist in Arizona, and a spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry,
reports, "I have a certain number of patients who are starting to show up
with it." He adds that the patients it crops up in most commonly are
teenagers. Dr. Curtis says that he does not treat the tooth decay and gum
disease associated with Meth mouth any differently than he treats the
conditions in other patients. However, if he believes his patient is using
Meth, he will ask them to stop and he advised other dentists to do the
same. If dentists relieve patients of their current dental problems but
they continue to use the drug, chances are the same problems will
reappear, he noted, "The cycle will occur and occur again." "
also be aware that Meth has been shown to have dangerous interactions with
common dental anesthetics. These, in turn, could cause major hypertensive
episodes or other health problems. Also, anyone who suspects they may be
working with a patient using Meth should be familiar with the signs of
tweaking and how to deal with a tweaker.
Talking With Patients
Mandatory Reporters & Where to Report