Meth Mouth – A Devastating Consequence Of Crystal Meth Addiction
You can typically spot a chronic meth user a mile away because they have been afflicted with a condition known as “meth mouth.” Meth mouth is a common term used to describe the unfortunate dental condition that develops among those who abuse methamphetamines (also called “ice” or “crystal meth.”) Blackened teeth from severe and advanced tooth decay, broken or missing teeth, rotten teeth, dental and gum disease are just a few of the most obvious characteristics of meth mouth.
In this article, we will provide the causes of meth mouth, explain what happens to those who have it, and provide some preventative measures that can be taken to slow the progression of the condition.
What Causes Meth Mouth?
While addictive drugs like cocaine, alcohol, and heroin are also detrimental to good oral hygiene, meth reigns supreme when it comes to destroying the teeth and gums. The drug causes major problems in the mouth in a very short period of time – problems that are not only unfavorable to the person who has them, they are also unsightly. When someone develops meth mouth, it destroys their smile and makes the appearance of their mouth difficult for others to look at.
There are a number of reasons why ice addiction leads to meth mouth. Here are just a few:
- When someone uses crystal meth, they become dehydrated. This greatly reduces the amount of protective saliva that naturally forms around the teeth and gums. This encourages tooth decay and speeds up the process of enamel breakdown. Saliva is needed to neutralize acids and bacteria in the mouth. When there isn’t enough saliva, acid and bacteria work together to rot the teeth.
- Meth shrinks blood vessels and limits the blood supply to the mouth. When the mouth does not have an adequate supply of healthy blood, blood vessels continue to shrink and eventually die. This causes tissue to decay and promotes infection, which wreak havoc on the teeth and gums.
- People who abuse ice are known to drink sugary drinks, eat candy and chocolate, and maintain a poor diet overall. These poor nutritional choices led to the weakening of the teeth and gum damage.
- Crystal meth causes the user to grind their teeth, which causes already weakened teeth to fracture and break.
- Those who are addicted to ice do not take care of their teeth. They generally do not brush and floss regularly as recommended by dentists. This leads to a build up of bacteria in the mouth, which leads to nasty consequences for the teeth and gums.
- Meth is made of all sorts of funky and harmful chemicals – ammonia, red phosphorus and lithium to name a few. These toxins deteriorate tooth enamel, rot the teeth, and help contribute to meth mouth.
Anyone who uses ice on a regular basis is guaranteed to develop meth mouth – the condition does not discriminate. While some will see their teeth disintegrate faster than others, many begin to experience effects of the drug on the teeth and gums as early as six months after continued use.
Check out this slide show, provided by CBS News, which will show you the terrible end results of meth mouth.
What Scientific Research Has To Say About Meth Mouth
According to one UCLA study, “In the largest study of meth abusers to date, Dr. Vivek Shetty and his colleagues systematically investigated the patterns and severity of dental disease in 571 methamphetamine abusers. The team found that over 96 percent of those studied experienced dental cavities and 58 percent had untreated tooth decay. Only 23 percent retained all of their natural teeth, compared 48 percent for the general population in the U.S.”
Some Of The Negative Consequences That Result From Meth Mouth
The results of continued and prolonged crystal meth abuse on the mouth are devastating and almost always completely irreversible. Here are a few of the conditions that are associated with meth mouth:
Many experts believe that abusing crystal meth can lead to an increased risk of oral cancer, which includes cancer of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, the soft and hard palate, sinuses, and throat.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “periodontitis is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth. Periodontitis can cause teeth to loosen or lead to tooth loss.” In the previously mentioned UCLA study, more than 89 percent of the meth users studied showed total periodontitis.
Meth attacks and deteriorates the gums, causing them to become swollen or bleed. Severe breakdown of the gums can lead to periodontitis and ultimately tooth loss.
Loss of Teeth
Quite often, the damage caused by ice abuse results in the loss of teeth. This is because of severe tooth decay, periodontitis, or broken and fractured teeth.
Severe Tooth Decay And Cavities
It is not uncommon for meth mouth to cause extreme decay of the teeth, which causes them to rot and appear black. Cavities are common for those who abuse meth.
Not only is meth mouth dangerous to the teeth and gums, it can become incredibly painful. The erosion of the teeth and extreme tooth decay can expose nerves or cause a throbbing and relentless pain in the teeth. Usually, a meth user will experience tooth pain so severe that it will motivate them to visit a dentist. The dentist will likely tell them there is no way to repair the tooth and that it will have to be removed.
The thing about meth mouth is that it usually happens all at once. It doesn’t just show up in one tooth at a time. Because the entire mouth is affected, drastic measures usually must be taken to address the many problems caused by ice addiction.
Treating Meth Mouth – The Long, Hard, and Expensive Road Back To Dental Health
It usually isn’t until someone enters recovery from crystal meth addiction that they become willing and motivated to get treatment for meth mouth. Usually, by then, there has been extensive, irreversible damage to the teeth, gums, and mouth tissue. Furthermore, most dentists will not agree to treat active meth users because any work they do perform will be quickly undone by continued drug use.
While many meth addicts are forced to live the rest of their lives without teeth or ongoing untreatable dental issues, there is hope for those who have developed meth mouth. Some dentists specialize in the repair of teeth and gums caused by addiction and implement treatment plans designed specifically for those who have abused ice.
Dental implants, crowns, dentures, teeth extractions, gum treatments, and other restorative measures can be taken for those with meth mouth. The problem is that these dental services can be VERY costly and can take a couple of years to complete. Nevertheless, if you have meth mouth and you want to fix it, you should know that help is available.
How You Can Prevent Meth Mouth
You may recall the old expression, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Preventing meth mouth – as opposed to fixing it – is the best route to take if you want to avoid the profound effects meth has on the mouth.
The most obvious way to prevent meth mouth is to not use crystal meth. This goes without saying, of course, but we thought we should say it anyway. When it comes to meth addiction and meth mouth, the two go hand in hand. It is not a question of IF you will get meth mouth, but rather a question of WHEN. Some who abuses ice WILL eventually develop horrible and irreversible dental issues – it’s just a matter of time.
If you are abusing crystal meth and you are not ready to stop, there are certain steps you can take to reduce the negative effects of methamphetamines on the mouth. If you follow these simple suggestions, you will greatly reduce the progression of meth mouth and slow the process greatly.
- While you are using ice, be sure to drink lots and lots (AND LOTS AND LOTS) of water. This drug severely dehydrates the body and reduces saliva production in the mouth. Drinking water will stimulate saliva and help neutralize the acid introduced to the body from the ingredients of the drug itself.
- Stay away from sugary drinks, candy, and anything high in sugar. Many people who use crystal meth are guilty of slamming sodas and coffee loaded with sugar. They also crunch on candy or eat chocolate. Sugar contributes to the rotting of teeth. Do your best to choose healthy dietary alternatives and opt for better food and drink choices to steer clear of sugar as best you can.
- Be sure to brush and floss your teeth regularly. When a physical or psychological addiction takes hold, those who are afflicted tend to completely neglect their health. This includes proper oral hygiene. Make it a point to pay attention to your dental needs when you are using. It takes less than five minutes to brush and floss your teeth.
- Swish your mouth regularly with an antibacterial mouthwash like Listerine. This will help ward off bacteria buildup in the mouth. A small bottle of mouthwash only costs a couple of dollars and it is worth the investment. After all, you only get one mouth – take care of it.
- Try not to grind your teeth. This is a natural reaction to the drug and we understand that you might feel as if grinding your teeth is beyond your control. If you find that you cannot be mindful of teeth grinding and stop it yourself, try chewing some sugar-free gum instead. This will take the stress off your teeth and help prevent cracks and fractures.
While these simple suggestions do not guarantee that you won’t develop meth mouth, they will go a long way in preventing more severe damage. If you won’t stop using ice, make the commitment that if you are going to use it, you are going to do your best to take care of your mouth while you do it. If you don’t, you will regret it later – GUARANTEED.
Has Meth Stolen Your Smile? Get Help For Your Ice Addiction
While meth mouth is harmful to your health and detrimental to your smile, this should be the least of your worries if you are abusing this dangerous drug. You could die from a meth overdose, organ failure, sleep deprivation, or some other deadly consequence caused by your drug use. If you don’t die, you will continue to experience the misery and depravity that always accompanies meth addiction.
If you are hooked on crystal meth and you want to get your smile back, you are going to have to take the brave and courageous step toward reclaiming your life. This happens when you stop abusing ice and make the commitment to a life in recovery.
Ready to get help? Contact us and we will get you on the road to recovery.