Meth Mouth, a term for the tooth and oral health damage caused by the illegal and highly addictive drug methamphetamine, is one of many devastating effects this drug can have on users’ health. Methamphetamine is a potent central nervous system stimulant that can cause shortness of breath, hyperthermia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heart beat, high blood pressure, permanent brain damage and rampant tooth decay.
Some users describe their teeth as “blackened, stained, rotting, crumbling or falling apart.” Often, the teeth cannot be salvaged and must be removed. The extensive tooth decay is likely caused by a combination of drug-induced psychological and physiological changes resulting in dry mouth and long periods of poor oral hygiene. A methamphetamine “high” lasts much longer than a high produced by crack cocaine—12 hours versus one hour for cocaine—which can lead to long periods of poor oral hygiene. And while they are high, users often crave high-calorie, carbonated, sugary beverages or they may grind or clench their teeth, all of which can harm teeth.
According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, methamphetamine use is declining (from an estimated 731,000 past month users in 2006 to 353,000 past month users in 2010). However it is still a concern, particularly in rural areas and in the western, southwestern and midwestern U.S.