Meth Mouth

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Suspected case of meth mouth

Meth mouth” is an informal name for advanced tooth decay attributed to heavy methamphetamine use.[1] 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, increased consumption of sugared soft drinks, and teeth clenching and grinding (bruxism).”[2][3]

“Meth mouth” characteristics include:

  • Bruxism (teeth clenching and grinding): Methamphetamine induces bruxism, leading to the wear and cracks of tooth enamel.
  • Oral hygiene neglect: Methamphetamine users often neglect oral hygiene.
  • Hyposalivation (dry mouth): A lack of saliva’s natural protective effects directly leads to increased tooth decay, particularly at the gum line.

Some have contended that “meth mouth” is not due to methamphetamine being acidic or corrosive[4] but the Pennsylvania Dental Association maintains that “the acidic ingredients of methamphetamine can damage teeth.”[5]. Meth mouth has been observed in people who abuse pharmaceutical grade methamphetamine as well. It is most likely due to common characteristics of heavy methamphetamine use.[6]

Despite the name “meth mouth”, similarly accelerated tooth decay can be caused by the abuse of other stimulants with similar actions, such as amphetamines, cocaine and methylphenidate.

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