Addiction to methamphetamine is known to cause numerous physical and psychological issues, among them weight loss, erratic behavior, and skin sores caused by users scratching at imagined irritations. One of the most well-known conditions of regular meth use is a variety of destructive dental problems, known collectively as “meth mouth.”
Tooth Decay and Gum Disease: Markers of Meth Mouth
The term “meth mouth” does not refer to one specific dental or medical syndrome.
Rather, it describes several dental conditions and symptoms that have become associated with meth abuse. Meth mouth consists of various levels and forms of tooth and gum decay, commonly in the form of “broken, stained and rotten” teeth that can become loose or fall out.
One potential cause of meth mouth is meth’s tendency to dry out the mouth, removing protective saliva. Others point to meth’s damage to blood vessels that keep teeth and gums healthy. “Rampant caries”, or cavities, are very common.
Meth users also face a higher risk of gum disease, which is a progressive condition that can eventually result in tooth loss, among many other issues. Rates of these problems are considerably higher in meth users compared to non-meth users.
Research has found that “users who snort [meth] have significantly worse tooth decay than users who smoke or inject it,” although most users experience decay regardless of how they take the drug.
Contributing Behaviors and Further Damages of Meth Mouth
Beyond the horrific damage to one’s mouth caused by severe cavities and advanced gum
disease, regular meth use also increases one’s risk for several other dental conditions.
The American Dental Association (ADA) notes that meth users may also experience “bruxism, disorders of the temporomandibular joint, myofascial pain, and trismus.” In layman’s terms, this means teeth grinding – another risk for decay – along with jaw pain, tightness, an inability to open one’s mouth fully, and even severe difficulty chewing.
Meth itself is bad enough, but the behaviors it causes wreak even more havoc on dental health over time. The ADA further writes that meth users may experience cravings for sweets that can result in increased consumption of sugary, unhealthy drinks that will harm dental health further. Additionally, meth’s effects last for a fairly long time, so users may go longer than normal without brushing their teeth. 5
Seeking Treatment for Meth Abuse
Meth mouth is just one of many horrific side effects from regular meth use. Meth mouth is difficult to treat, and has significant, lasting effects on a person’s self-esteem and quality of life. Worst of all, the physical and emotional toll of meth mouth are only one part of the wider strains that meth addiction places on a person. Since the most important factor in treating meth mouth is cessation of meth use, addicts must find professional help before meth mouth, and the many other serious health risks of meth use, worsen with time.
Granite Recovery Centers in New Hampshire offers individualized substance abuse recovery plans for meth addiction that include a unique combination of 12-step work with clinical modalities. Using an abstinence-based approach that combines therapy, step work, community building, and life skills training, Granite Recovery Centers will help you or your loved one beat methamphetamine abuse or any other substances that are keeping you from the life you want.
Call our meth treatment admissions staff for help at (603)339-4160.