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The Impact of Methamphetamine on the Mouth and Dental Health

Author: Zahra Shahriyari Afshar


With the growing popularity of the synthetic style drug “crystal meth” in the United States and Europe, physiological impacts such as circulatory complications, hunger, fatigue and most recently, meth mouth have become a topic of increased concern. Meth mouth has recently been recognized as a term for severe tooth and dental damage following prolonged and frequent abuse of methamphetamine.


Methamphetamines were first synthesized in 1893 and were predominantly used in World War II to maintain soldiers’ mental and physical efficiency. The success of methamphetamine was primarily due to its effect on the central nervous system as it has a significant impact on one’s “energy, alertness, risk appetite and can efficiently suppress hunger, thirst, and the sensation of pain” (Pabst et al., 2017). Unfortunately, long-term chronic abuse has led to severe cardiovascular diseases, physical decay, and meth mouth characterized by xerostomia, extensive lesions, enamel erosions, extensive teeth crunching, and more dental and mouth damages.


In conjunction with the physiology of meth mouth, the prevention and treatment of patients with meth mouth are relevant. Those affected by meth mouth and other aversive effects of chronic methamphetamine abuse are frequently stigmatized and vilified. They also have been under the scrutiny and pressure of surviving in unstable social circumstances with little to no access to proper general hygiene. Research conducted by Rommel et al. in 2015 illustrated the effects of accompanying factors on oral health in chronic methamphetamine abuse. They concluded that of the 100 patients studied, many had significantly reduced oral and dental care. Additionally, most patients had difficulty recalling much of their experience when under the influence of the drug and could not remember the last time they had access to dental hygiene products or the opportunity to care about their hygiene.


While the exact correlations between meth mouth and methamphetamine abuse are still unclear, further research can aid in clarification and further understanding of the underlying factors that may be influential to this relationship. Currently, awareness brought about through education, better access to cheaper/free dental products and services, and a more compassionate approach to those struggling with addictions can be great avenues through which issues such as “meth mouth” can be prevented or treated.


References:


Pabst, A., Castillo-Duque, J. C., Mayer, A., Klinghuber, M., & Werkmeister, R. (2017, October 30). Meth mouth-a growing epidemic in dentistry? Dentistry journal. Retrieved April 1, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5806971/


Rommel N., Rohleder N.H., Wagenpfeil S., Haertel-Petri R., Kesting M.R. Evaluation of methamphetamine-associated socioeconomic status and addictive behaviors, and their impact on oral health. Addict. Behav. 2015;50:182–187. Doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2015.06.040