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Effects of Meth Addiction on Dental Health

The term “meth mouth” refers to the bad teeth of meth addicts. We’ve all seen the ads featuring pictures of mouths full of crooked rotting teeth. In truth, any addiction severe enough can cause you to neglect your health, including nutrition and oral hygiene, but there are several factors that make meth particularly bad for your teeth.

Meth causes dry mouth. This is a condition called xerostomia. It’s certain that meth reduces production of saliva, but the reason remains unclear. It may constrict blood flow to the salivary glands, resulting in less saliva production. This is probably compounded by dehydration–less water, less saliva. Saliva is important for protecting your teeth and a reduction in saliva increases tooth decay, enamel erosion, and gum disease.  

Meth makes you clench and grind your teeth. Bruxism is the name for clenching and grinding teeth. One of the effects of meth is that you may continually grind your teeth as the drug’s effects wane. This is especially common in long-term addicts and over the years it gradually wears down the teeth.

Meth makes you crave sugary drinks and snacks. Meth famously makes people not want to eat, but when meth addicts do eat, they tend to prefer sugary junk food. Not only do they crave sugary food, but it’s usually cheap and easy to get. They also tend to drink a lot of sugary drinks. All this excess sugar, combined with inadequate saliva, increases the rate of tooth decay. This junk food diet also leads to malnutrition, meaning your teeth don’t get calcium and other minerals they need to be healthy.

Meth makes you neglect oral hygiene. Meth is a relatively cheap drug and it may be that meth addicts in general are less likely to have access to dental care. It’s certainly true that meth addicts are more likely to neglect oral hygiene. This means neglecting daily brushing and regular checkups.

In fact, dentist visits pose several problems for meth addicts. They probably won’t want to discuss their drug use with their dentist and so will probably avoid the dentist if at all possible. If they do go to the dentist and need work done, there may be dangerous drug interactions between the meth and the anesthesia. After the work is done, there may be dangerous interactions between the meth and the pain medication. All of these complications make meth addicts less likely to get needed dental work.

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