What Are Meth Teeth?

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“Meth teeth,” sometimes referred to as “meth mouth,” is a term describing dental issues that can develop as a result of methamphetamine (meth) use. Meth is an addictive drug that can cause a range of dental problems, including severe tooth decay. The condition can be very painful and significantly impact a person’s oral health and overall well-being.

If you experience dental problems due to meth use, one of the first critical steps to consider taking is to seek treatment for substance misuse. Continued meth use can cause even more damage to teeth and gums, some of which may be irreversible. Contact Guardian Recovery today to learn about our comprehensive rehab programs and individualized treatment plans. Through evidence-based therapies and services, we can provide you with the tools and support you need to overcome addiction and prevent further oral complications from meth use.

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Symptoms & Implications of Meth Teeth

Meth use can cause dry mouth, teeth grinding, and other oral hygiene issues that can all contribute to tooth decay and loss. It can also cause blood vessels to constrict, resulting in a decrease in the blood supply to the gums and teeth and further worsening dental issues. Meth-affected teeth are also frequently marked by discoloration, chips, and breakage.

Symptoms of Meth Teeth Include: 

  • Severe tooth decay and cavities.
  • Tooth loss due to decay, gum disease, or tooth fractures.
  • Cracked or chipped teeth caused, in part, by teeth grinding or clenching.
  • Dry mouth, which reduces saliva that would otherwise provide the mouth’s protective barrier.
  • Mouth sores, a potential result of dry mouth.
  • Halitosis, or bad breath due to the formation of bacteria in the mouth.
  • Inflamed, bleeding, and receding gums.
  • Oral infections or abscesses that occur due to a weakened immune system.
  • Changes in the appearance of teeth, such as staining, darkening, or discoloration.

Causes of Meth Teeth

Several factors may contribute to the dental issues associated with meth use, some of which are not directly related to oral hygiene itself.

Meth Teeth Causes Include:

  • Poor oral hygiene, due to a person’s excessive, routine meth use and oral health care neglect.
  • Loss of appetite and poor nutrition contributing to weak teeth and gums.
  • Meth’s high acidity, as it can erode tooth enamel and cause decay when smoked or snorted. (1)
  • Eating sugary and acidic drinks and foods, which are common cravings among meth users.
  • Bruxism, or teeth grinding and clenching.
  • Reduced blood flow to the gums and teeth.
  • Other lifestyle factors, such as smoking, alcohol use, and a lack of routine dental visits.

Causes of Discolored Teeth Include:

  • Dry mouth, due to reduced saliva production.
  • Exposure to meth’s acidity can cause discoloration.
  • Poor oral hygiene, leading to the buildup of plaque and tartar.
  • Smoking meth can lead to tooth stains.
  • Lifestyle factors, in which users engage in other behaviors that contribute to tooth discoloration, such as smoking tobacco.

Complications Related to Meth Mouth

Complications of meth teeth or meth mouth can result in significant pain and discomfort and can have long-lasting, debilitating effects.

Complications From Meth Mouth May Include:

  • Difficulty Eating—Tooth loss, damage, pain, and discomfort can make eating challenging.
  • Chronic Pain—Dental problems can cause chronic pain in the mouth and teeth, even when a person is not eating.
  • Difficulty Speaking—Dental problems or missing teeth can make speaking clearly and confidently difficult.
  • Infection—Unaddressed dental issues can lead to infections that spread to other body parts, leading to more severe health conditions. (2)

Reduced Self-Esteem—Cosmetic changes, such as discolored or missing teeth, can reduce self-esteem and confidence.

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Treating Advanced Tooth Decay & Gum Disease

Meth can cause gum disease and tooth decay that can progress and become very severe over time with long-term use. However, there are treatment options that can help repair some of the damage and prevent further dental deterioration. The treatment for advanced tooth decay and gum disease that is most appropriate for you largely depends on the severity of your condition.

Treatment for Meth-Related Tooth Decay & Gum Disease Includes:

  • Professional dental cleanings to remove plaque and tartar and help prevent further damage to teeth and gums.
  • For advanced tooth decay, fillings, crowns, or root canals may be needed to remove or repair damaged teeth.
  • For gum disease, periodontal treatments, such as scaling and root planing, or surgery may be necessary to eliminate bacteria and improve gum health. (3)
  • The extraction of teeth may be needed In some cases.
  • Dental implants or dentures may be used to restore the mouth’s function and appearance.
  • Antibiotics or other medications may be prescribed to treat infections or manage pain.

Treatment for advanced dental problems related to meth use can be multifaceted and require multiple dental appointments or procedures. Ongoing oral care and seeking professional help for meth addiction are crucial to preventing further damage to the teeth and gums.

Other Physical & Mental Health Effects of Meth Use

Dental problems, although potentially severe, may not be the greatest risk that meth users face. Meth use can lead to a wide range of severe or life-threatening physical and mental effects on the brain and body.

Meth Use Health Effects & Risks Include:

  • Increased heart rate, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
  • Rapid weight loss and malnutrition.
  • Insomnia, hypersomnia, and other sleep disturbances.
  • Increased body temperature, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.
  • Skin problems, acne, sores, and rashes.
  • Brain damage, memory loss, impaired cognitive function, and mood disorders.
  • Respiratory issues, lung damage, and chronic bronchitis.

Meth Use Psychological Effects & Risks Include:

  • Psychotic symptoms, paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations.
  • Anxiety, nervousness, and restlessness.
  • Depression and low mood.
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
  • Cognitive impairment and memory, attention, and decision-making impairments.
  • Aggression and irritability.
  • Addiction, including tolerance, dependence, and compulsive drug-seeking behavior.

How Meth Causes Addiction

Meth use causes addiction by interfering with the brain’s ability to correctly process normal feelings of pleasure and reward. When meth is ingested, a surge of dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is released in the central nervous system. (4) This chemical plays a critical role in a person’s experience of well-being and encourages behaviors that trigger enjoyable feelings.

Over time, chronic meth use can lead to enduring changes in the brain’s reward system, and the individual may find they are unable to experience significant pleasure or reward from other activities, such as eating and exercising. As a result, the brain begins to change in response to the never-ending excess of dopamine by decreasing the number of its receptors. This is called tolerance, which means that increasing amounts of meth are needed to achieve the same level of pleasure or effects the user is seeking.

The regular, long-term use of meth leads to a condition known as dependence. This occurs when a person’s body has become accustomed to the consistent presence of meth and its effects and is unable to function correctly without it. If meth use is stopped, unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, including fatigue, depression, and intense cravings, occur, and this makes it more challenging for the user to stave off a relapse. This avoidance of consequences serves as another contributor to the cycle of addiction.

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Meth teeth and meth mouth are potentially devastating conditions that can be painful, permanent, and adversely alter one’s appearance. Also, there are many more meth-related physical and mental health issues that can be severe and long-lasting. However, when meth use is stopped, these effects may be reversed or further harm prevented from occurring. If you or a loved one is struggling with meth use, you are encouraged to seek professional help that can help you end active addiction and reclaim the life you deserve.

Guardian Recovery is an innovative addiction treatment center specializing in the treatment of substance use issues and co-occurring mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety. Our comprehensive programs offer multiple levels of evidence-based care, including detox, inpatient treatment, and outpatient programs. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation assessment and health insurance benefits check. You can speak to a skilled, compassionate Treatment Advisor who can explain more about our straightforward admissions process and personalized treatment plans.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

(1)https://hadlockdentalcenter.com/the-truth-about-methamphetamines-and-oral-health (2)https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/mouth-sores-and-infections/eight-common-oral-infections (3)https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/23983-tooth-scaling-and-root-planing (4)https://www.nature.com/articles/npp2017291

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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