What Is Meth Mouth?

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Meth, also known as methamphetamine, is a highly addictive, illicit drug. Meth is a stimulant, meaning that it speeds up the central nervous system and body. The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies meth as a Schedule II substance. (1) This means that meth is often used illegally for recreational purposes, but can be used for specific medical purposes. Using meth can lead to various adverse effects, including problems with one’s dental hygiene. With multiple side effects associated with meth use, some may wonder what is meth mouth? Meth mouth is the term used to describe the oral consequences of meth use. Meth mouth is an oral disease. (2)

Approximately 2.5 million individuals reportedly engaged in meth use in 2021. (3) Approximately 1.6 million individuals were diagnosed with methamphetamine use disorder. (4) If you or someone you know are experiencing uncontrollable meth use, a substance use disorder may be present. Here at Guardian recovery Network, we offer comprehensive treatment for individuals experiencing alcohol and substance use disorders. With psychoeducation and therapeutic options, such as individual and family therapy available, we can aid you or a loved one in developing the necessary coping strategies to help reach your recovery goals. Contact us today to get started.

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How Does Methamphetamine Use Affect Dental Hygiene & Mouth Health?

Meth is known as a neurotoxin, meaning that it is a poison to the central nervous system. (5) Decay usually involves the facial and cervical areas of the maxillary and mandibular teeth. (6)  Meth mouth is theorized to be caused by physiological changes such as dry mouth, long periods of poor oral hygiene, and frequent use of sugary or carbonated drinks. Additionally, meth is acidic and can damage the teeth. (7) A study published in The Journal of the American Dental Association found that the more an individual used meth, the worse their teeth and dental hygiene became. (8) Individuals who ingest meth through smoking are more likely to develop meth mouth than people who ingest it using other methods. (9)

What Symptoms Can Meth Mouth Cause?

Meth mouth is defined by extreme tooth decay and gum disease. This can lead to the teeth breaking or falling out.

Symptoms associated with meth mouth include: (10)

  • Blackened teeth
  • Stained teeth
  • Rotting or crumbling teeth
  • Cottonmouth
  • Gum disease
  • Swollen gums
  • Teeth grinding
  • Tooth decay
  • Poor and inconsistent oral hygiene
  • Cravings for sugary drinks

Hygiene Decline & Bad Breath

Neglecting personal hygiene is a symptom of methamphetamine use. With this comes the decline in how often an individual using meth may brush their teeth or engage in other important dental maintenance practices. Daily dental hygiene steps may be skipped for days by an individual engaging in meth use. Bad breath is one of the first signs of meth mouth. (11)

Cavities

Poor dental hygiene can increase one’s chances of developing cavities. (12) A cavity is a hole in the tooth that develops from tooth decay. Cavities can lead to tooth pain, infection, or loss.

Dental Lesions

Those who engage in meth use can develop lesions and burns on their lips and inside of the cheeks. (13) Those who ingest meth through snorting can develop lesions on the back of their throats. Lesions may be difficult to heal due to how meth use decreases one’s ability to heal following an injury.

Receding Gum Tissue

Receding gum tissue usually develops during the second stage of meth mouth. (14) Meth can cause the gums to recede, or move back, past the normal gum line.

Gum Disease (Periodontitis)

Those who use meth do not often receive dental treatment. Neglecting one’s oral hygiene can lead to gum disease or periodontitis. (15) Gum disease is characterized by destruction of the bones that support the teeth. In order to thrive, the teeth and gums need blood supply. Meth use can lead to the vessels that supply blood for the teeth and gums to become smaller. This causes gum tissue to break down. Unfortunately, blood flow cannot be recovered once it is lost.

Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

Saliva helps protect the teeth from acid that may be present in food or drinks. On average, one liter of saliva is produced a day. Bacteria increases in the mouth when saliva is reduced. Meth use can lead to dried out salivary glands and dry mouth. (16) Without the normal production of saliva, acid begins to destroy the enamel of the teeth. Overtime, this leads to cavities.

Cracked Teeth

Meth use can lead to symptoms similar to anxiety, such as nervousness or teeth clenching. Individuals who engage in meth use can develop patterns on their teeth. Even biting or chewing soft foods can lead to teeth cracking or breaking. (17)

Ulcers

Ulcers caused by meth use are painful, open sores that can make talking and eating difficult. Ulcers caused by meth use can develop on the cheeks, lips, floor of the moth, tongue, or gums. (18)

Erosion, Teeth Grinding, & Tooth Decay

Individuals engaging in meth use may suck on lollipops to help reduce their teeth grinding. (19) Highly sugary drinks are often craved by those engaging in meth use. Tooth decay begins at the gum line and can spread to the teeth. The teeth in the front of the mouth are often the first to become destroyed from tooth decay.

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Long-Term Damaging Oral Side Effects of Meth Use

Over time, meth can worsen the mouth, gums, and teeth to a point of no return. Once the damage is done by meth to the mouth, the damage can not be undone. Long-term damaging effects associated with meth use include teeth falling out or needing to be removed.

Can Meth Mouth Cause Other Issues With Health?

There are other negative health effects caused by meth use.

Other physical and mental health issues associated with meth use include: (20)

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Aggressive and violent behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Changes in the brain
  • Inflammation of the heart lining

Treatment for Dental Damage & Related Symptoms

Treatment options for the dental damages caused by meth mouth and any other related symptoms are limited. Depending on the severity, the teeth may not be salvageable, and they may need to be removed.

Treatment for meth mouth and its related symptoms include: (21)

  • Deep cleanings
  • Tooth removal
  • Cavity fillings
  • Fluoride treatment
  • Tooth replacements

Dental treatment should not be given until at least 6 hours after an individual’s last use. Certain anesthetics, such as adrenaline or noradrenaline, should be avoided due to how its interactions with meth can cause increased blood pressure. (22)

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Here at Guardian Recovery, we offer methamphetamine specific detoxification services to help you or a loved one begin your recovery journey in a safe and supervised environment. Our treatment facilities offer various treatment programs, such as residential inpatientpartial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient. Contact us today to speak with a Treatment Advisor and to receive a free, no obligation insurance benefits check. Sobriety and recovery are possible here at Guardian Recovery.

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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://www.dea.gov/drug-information/drug-scheduling
  2. https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/population-health/odh/documents/meth-mouth.pdf
  3. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-scope-methamphetamine-misuse-in-united-states
  4. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-scope-methamphetamine-misuse-in-united-states
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4393984/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4393984/
  7. https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(15)00977-0/abstract
  8. https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(15)00977-0/abstract
  9. https://drugpolicy.org/drug-facts/what-is-meth-mouth
  10. https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/population-health/odh/documents/meth-mouth.pdf
  11. https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/population-health/odh/documents/meth-mouth.pdf
  12. https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/population-health/odh/documents/meth-mouth.pdf
  13. https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/population-health/odh/documents/meth-mouth.pdf
  14. https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/population-health/odh/documents/meth-mouth.pdf
  15. https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/population-health/odh/documents/meth-mouth.pdf
  16. https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/population-health/odh/documents/meth-mouth.pdf
  17. https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/population-health/odh/documents/meth-mouth.pdf
  18. https://www.healthline.com/health/substance-use/does-meth-cause-mouth-ulcers
  19. https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/population-health/odh/documents/meth-mouth.pdf
  20. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-are-long-term-effects-methamphetamine-misuse
  21. https://www.byte.com/community/resources/article/what-is-meth-mouth-can-you-fix-your-teeth/
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4393984/

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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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