Most people are familiar with ‘meth mouth’, the bad teeth of long-time meth users. Photos of meth mouth are sometimes used in anti-drug advertisements. Is this just a scare tactic or is it a real problem? And if it’s real, what causes it? Meth mouth does appear to be a real phenomenon. According to the American Dental Association, one study of 571 meth users showed 96 percent had cavities, 58 percent had untreated tooth decay, and 31 percent had six or more missing teeth. The study found the more meth people used, the worse their teeth, and cigarette smoking compounds the effect. It also found that women and people over 30 years old were disproportionately affected. There are several reasons meth is so bad for your teeth. The first is that it stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which constricts salivary glands. If you’ve ever been extremely nervous and noticed your mouth was dry, making it hard to speak, that’s a similar phenomenon. Meth constricts saliva production for long periods of time. The problem is that saliva protects and restores tooth enamel. When your mouth is chronically dry, your teeth are more vulnerable to cavities and decay. The second major issue is that meth makes you thirsty–probably because your mouth is so dry–and it makes you crave sweets. As a result, people who use meth also tend to drink a lot of fizzy drinks. Not only do fizzy drinks contain loads of sugar, but the carbonation makes them slightly acidic. The sugar feeds bacteria that destroy tooth enamel and in the absence of protective saliva, these bacteria are far more destructive. Another major cause is simple neglect. Meth is a long-acting drug. Someone might be high for days, during which time she may neglect nutrition and hygiene. Therefore, the dry mouth and excessive fizzy drink consumption are not even moderated by regular brushing. When dental problems do develop, meth users are less likely to go to the dentist. There may be several reasons for this. One reason is they don’t want to be caught. Meth use can damage teeth in less than a year. It’s one of the earliest physical indicators and dentists usually know it when they see it. If a younger person is skinny with bad tooth decay, it’s pretty clear what’s going on. Many users don’t like that exposure. If they go to the dentist anyway, actually having work done may be a problem because meth can interact dangerously with anesthesia. Meth mouth is real and it can happen quickly. It’s not reversible but you can limit the damage by quitting right away.
If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, we can help. Recovery Ways is a leading addiction treatment provider with an excellent recovery rate. Our expert staff includes masters and PhD level therapists and board certified addiction psychiatrists. Our comfortable facilities will help to make your treatment as enjoyable as possible and our therapists use proven techniques like sensory integration and recreation therapy to help to engage the world without the assistance of drugs or alcohol. Call us today at 1-888-986-7848 or email us through our contact page to learn more.