Although rotting teeth, blackened cavities and bleeding gums aren’t the only physical effects of meth use, “meth mouth” gets a lot of attention because the mouth readily reveals the damaging effects of meth on the human body.
Made from a combination of pseudoephedrine/ephedrine and chemicals ranging from engine starter and fertilizer to rubbing alcohol, meth does not directly cause tooth decay and gum disease. Instead, meth produces a chronically dry mouth exacerbated by the user’s lack of good oral hygiene and eating nothing but high-carb, high-sugar foods. Also accelerating the development of meth mouth is the teeth clenching and tooth grinding behaviors seen in meth addicts “tweaking,” or suffering withdrawals.
Some research suggests that meth powder containing anhydrous ammonia, red phosphorous or battery lithium might contribute to rapid erosion of dental enamel in addicts who smoke or snort meth. Additionally, meth limits blood supply to the mouth because it constricts blood vessels throughout the body. Without enough oxygenated blood reaching oral tissues, gums start decaying and shrinking away from teeth, leading to dental cavities and loose teeth.
Effects of Meth Use — Dry Mouth Syndrome
Medically referred to as xerostomia, dry mouth syndrome affects all stimulant addicts by raising body temperature, increasing respiratory rate and depleting saliva levels. Without enough saliva to neutralize acidic bacteria in the mouth, meth users will eventually develop meth mouth, in addition to chronic bad breath, cracked lips, canker sores and oral fungal infections.
Smoking and Meth Teeth
Many drug addicts are heavy smokers, sometimes smoking two or three packs a day to gratify another addiction and to minimize extreme anxiety. Smoking saturates already dehydrated oral tissues with hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide and hundreds of other carcinogenic chemicals. In addition to worsening dry mouth syndrome, meth addicts increase their risk of oral cancer, a type of cancer that exhibits symptoms similar to those of meth mouth (bleeding gums, sores, mouth ulcers that do not heal).
Meth Mouth Can Kill
Effects of meth on teeth and gums can kill users before the drug does. Bacteria emerging from untreated oral infections may enter the bloodstream and cause a serious systemic infection called sepsis. Painful cavities and loose teeth can prevent meth users from eating properly, resulting in severe nutritional deficiencies. Research has also found that bad oral health may promote cardiovascular disease or endocarditis, a serious infection of the heart.
What Happens to Teeth After Meth?
Depending on the severity of their “meth mouth,” recovering meth addicts can undergo a variety of dental treatments to restore oral health. Implants are available that replace lost teeth, while dentures may be needed if more than half of their teeth are missing. Laser surgery for improving the appearance of a receding or sagging gum line, and cosmetic treatments such as veneers and bonding will also help recovering meth users regain their smile and self-confidence.
If you or someone you know is addicted to meth, contact 12 Keys Rehab today for a confidential, one-on-one consultation with an understanding, supporting addiction specialist.