dry mouth

Meth mouth

Meth mouth is an informal name for advanced tooth decay attributed to heavy methamphetamine use. According to the American Dental Association, meth mouth "is probably caused by a combination of drug-induced psychological and physiological changes resulting in xerostomia (dry mouth), extended periods of poor oral hygiene, frequent consumption of high calorie, carbonated beverages and tooth grinding and clenching."

Despite common belief, "meth mouth" is not due to methamphetamine being acidic or corrosive or that some sort of contaminantion is present in the methamphetamine from manufacture of it—methamphetamine is not acidic or corrosive, and meth mouth has been observed in people who abuse pharmaceutical grade methamphetamine. It is most likely due to common characteristics of heavy methamphetamine use.

Such characteristics include:

  • xerostomia (dry mouth): Methamphetamine use may decrease the production of saliva. A lack of saliva's natural protective effects directly leads to increased tooth decay, particularly at the gumline. Smoking tobacco or consuming highly sugared soft drinks may worsen the problem.
  • cracked teeth: Methamphetamine induces clenching and grinding of the teeth, leading to wear or cracks.
  • neglect of oral hygiene: This is likely among the most important causes of poor oral health among methamphetamine users. After a prolonged binge, users may sleep for a day or more with their mouths open, exacerbating the problems of poor saliva supply.

Meth mouth is "difficult to distinguish" from a simple case of poor oral hygiene. Dentists are advised to look for "unaccounted for and accelerated decay in teenagers and young adults" and "malnourished appearance in heavy users, because methamphetamine acts as an appetite suppressant."

Despite the name "meth" mouth, accelerated tooth decay can be caused by many other similar stimulants with similar actions like methamphetamine's related compounds amphetamine or dextroamphetamine.

References

  • Richards, J.R., Brofeldt, B.T. "Patterns of tooth wear associated with methamphetamine use". J Periodontol. 2000 Aug; 71(8):1371–4.

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