The Effects of Methamphetamines on Teeth

man smoking meth pipe
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The use and production of methamphetamine, a strong stimulant drug, is becoming a huge problem in America. Common street names for this illegal and highly addictive drug are ice, meth, speed, crank, quartz, and crystal. It has also been called the “poor man’s cocaine”.

Crystal Meth and Your Mouth

The use of methamphetamines can cause serious health problems, including serious problems with your mouth and teeth.

What Is Meth Mouth?

“Meth Mouth” is a term used to describe the mouth of a methamphetamine user because of the rampant tooth decay that often occurs with the use of this dangerous drug. Using meth can cause decay to the extent that the teeth cannot be saved and must be pulled instead. Some dentists are even comparing “meth mouth” to “bottle mouth” a term sometimes used for the mouths of children that have been sent to bed with a bottle of milk or juice repeatedly, causing severe tooth decay.

How Meth Can Damage Your Mouth

Methamphetamine use damages dental health in several ways:

  • During the “high” produced by this drug, users often experience cravings for sugary carbonated beverages, which is bad for teeth.
  • The “high” from this drug lasts about 12 hours, during which time users will probably not brush or floss, therefore leaving the sugary substances on their teeth for long periods of time.
  • The acidic contents of this drug can damage teeth. Ingredients can include battery acid, lantern fuel, antifreeze, hydrochloric acid, drain cleaner, lye and over-the-counter cold medications containing ephedrine.
  • Users of methamphetamines typically tend to clench and/or grind their teeth.
  • Methamphetamines dry up protective saliva around the teeth.

Similarity to Mountain Dew Mouth 

Meth mouth is similar to Mountain Dew Mouth. Mountain Dew mouth is a term penned by dentists in reference to a form of tooth decay that is caused by drinking excessive amounts of sugary soda. The term is widely used in poorer areas of the country, especially the Appalachian Mountains.

Mountain Dew was invented in Tennessee, and the problem has been attributed to the accessibility of soda due to its relatively low cost. This issue has sparked discussions on whether policies should be put in place to restrict soda purchases with food stamps. 

While all soda, in essence, can cause advanced tooth decay, Mountain Dew has long been directly associated with advanced tooth decay and pain in children and adults, likely due to the higher sugar content (as compared to most other sodas).

Summary of Meth Mouth

Unfortunately, there is not much that a dentist can do for a patient with "meth mouth." The dentist may choose to educate the user on the effects of the drug and offer resources such as drug counseling services. However treating a meth addiction is usually a long, ongoing process.

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