126 Where There Is No Dentist 2012
The drug methamphetamine (also called meth, speed, yabaa, and other
names) is used by increasing numbers of people around the world. This very
addictive drug is harmful to the brain, the body, and especially the teeth
and gums. People who abuse methamphetamine develop “meth mouth,” a
condition where most of their teeth are badly decayed and appear stained,
blackened, and rotting. If left untreated, these teeth can not be saved.
• Dry mouth (xerostomia). Meth use stops the mouth from making saliva
which helps to buffer the teeth from sugar and acids in the mouth after
eating and drinking. This can cause tooth decay.
• Many cavities in the teeth from the drug itself and from sugary foods
and drinks craved by meth users.
• Gum disease. Meth use shrinks the blood vessels in the mouth, and
lack of blood flow causes the gums to break down and prevents the
healing of cuts and sores in the mouth.
• Tooth grinding caused by the drug causes cracked teeth and other
increased damage and wear to the teeth.
• Bad oral hygiene, common among meth users.
If someone with meth mouth comes to you for care, you can do your best
to clean his teeth, fill cavities, and treat for gum disease. But if he continues
to use the drug, his teeth will quickly get bad again. The most important
thing you can do is help the person get treatment for his drug addiction. The
international organization Narcotics Anonymous has programs in more than
131 countries and may be able to help. Find a chapter near you by looking on
the internet: www.na.org.