“Meth Mouth” Becoming More Common
Question: “Dr. Arnold, I recently heard the expression “meth mouth” used in relation to a teenage drug user in my neighborhood. What does that mean?”
Answer: We have all read stories about the growing problem of drug use in our communities. Methamphetamines are near the forefront of the problem in Northwest Indiana. These drugs are inexpensive, easy to make, and can be used in several different ways. It can be taken orally, injected, smoked, or snorted.
The oral form is generally taken as a bitter powder that dissolves in beverages or as a small, brightly colored tablet. The “high” will usually last longer than that of crack cocaine, and that is part of what adds to its allure.
Unfortunately, these drugs can cause permanent brain damage, heart problems, severe oral health effects, and several other serious conditions. “Meth mouth” is a condition that is being reported by an increasing number of dentists around the country, and it refers to the devastating effects that methamphetamines can have on the teeth. Rampant, visible cavities are very common for meth users.
These cavities are thought to be caused by a variety of factors. These include xerostomia (dry mouth), frequent consumption of acidic, carbonated beverages, and extended periods of poor oral hygiene. Additionally, the common feeling of hyperactivity is thought to make tooth grinding and clenching more prevalent, further intensifying the destruction of tooth structure.
These oral conditions are sometimes the first sign that there is a problem. Dentists must complete a thorough oral exam and medical history evaluation and be on the lookout for this very distinctive pattern of decay.
If methamphetamine use is suspected, patients are counseled in preventive measures like topical fluorides, increased water consumption, and decreased intake of sugary, carbonated beverages. Additionally, it is imperative that these patients be referred to the appropriate physician or substance abuse rehab facility to help them break this potentially life-threatening habit.
Dr. Jim Arnold is a practicing dentist in Chesterton and Valparaiso. He is also a clinical mentor with the Hornbrook Group and serves on the Advisory Board for the Academy of Comprehensive Esthetics as the Fellowship Chairman. You may send questions to his office at: 1830 South 11th Street, Chesterton, IN 46304 or email them to: drarnold@SmilesByArnold.com. More information on this or many other dental topics can be found at www.SmilesByArnold.com.