Meth Mouth

The struggle of addiction is one of pain and suffering.

The struggle of addiction is one of pain and suffering.

What is meant by Meth Mouth?

Meth Mouth is a condition that affects the mouth and teeth of long time users of the drug Methamphetamine (MA). For the past few years, Meth-Mouth is the most studied and discussed dangerous condition from substance abuse in dental literature.

What are the signs and symptoms of Meth Mouth?

MA is a highly addictive drug, which causes an increase in energy and euphoria. It is mostly consumed through the mouth; therefore the effects to the oral and dental tissues are severe. These effects include:

Meth mouth is almost always accompanied by dry mouth and reduced salivary flow, and this lack of saliva in the mouth decreases the washing away and cleaning of food remnants and bacteria.

The patient starts to grind their teeth together, which can chip away at the tooth structure and cause fractures.

Former addicts often offer hope and guidance to those still struggling.

Former addicts often offer hope and guidance to those still struggling.

 MA abuse is often accompanied by increased intake of food, especially sugary and unhealthy food to compensate for the energy loss. Since most MA abusers also tend to neglect their oral hygiene, this increased intake of sugar causes a faster build-up of plaque and tartar on the teeth, which do not get cleaned thoroughly and the bacteria starts to eat away at the tooth structure. 

MA in its structure contains hydrochloric acid, which is a highly toxic and highly caustic acid and can dissolve the calcium and minerals that are present in the tooth.

All these factors combine to form the most common destructive condition that can affect the teeth, namely dental decay. Dental decline in cases of MA abuse is more severe than normal decay; because it tends to spread a lot faster--along with the increase of sugar intake and lack of hygiene--it can reach a critical state in nearly no time. Most of the time the decay becomes so severe, that the tooth is heavily broken down and cannot be restored and probably will need to be extracted. Also,  the decay tends to happen in the cervical region of the teeth (which is the part near the gums), and on the outer surface facing the lips and cheeks. In these areas, the enamel (which is the hard part of the tooth that protects it from acid attack and decay) is fragile, and that could contribute to the fast spreading of the decay.Dental decline in cases of MA abuse is more severe than normal decay; because it tends to spread a lot faster--along with the increase of sugar intake and lack of hygiene--it can reach a critical state in nearly no time. Most of the time the decay becomes so severe, that the tooth is heavily broken down and cannot be restored and probably will need to be extracted. Also,  the decay tends to happen in the cervical region of the teeth (which is the part near the gums), and on the outer surface facing the lips and cheeks. In these areas, the enamel (which is the hard part of the tooth that protects it from acid attack and decay) is fragile, and that could contribute to the fast spreading of the decay.

Support groups offer the addict an opportunity for help and encouragement.

Support groups offer the addict an opportunity for help and encouragement.

Can Meth Mouth be treated?

As any condition including dental decay, Meth-Mouth can be treated, although the treatment is difficult and will probably require much more time than average.

The first step the patient needs to consider is seeking help for his drug problem. Help centers and support groups are available everywhere nowadays, and a lot of recovering patients and specialists are out there to offer help. Also, the local anesthetic used in dentistry can cause severe heart problems to MA abusers, so the problem needs to be solved at its core before attempting to treat the teeth.

As for the dental part, the decay itself is dealt with by fillings, root canals and, in hopeless teeth, extraction. The treatment doesn’t stop there, as the dentist will also need to treat the other effects of MethMouth, such as the reduced salivary flow, by giving drugs that increase the productions of saliva and encouraging the patient to consume foods that do so such as lemons and oranges (called sialogogues).

Fluoride application is also indicated, along with a prescription of high fluoride-containing toothpaste and mouthwashes. Last, but not least, patient education about the importance of oral hygiene and taking care of their teeth, as well as frequent dental visits and check-ups to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment and to detect any new problems.
 

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