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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/meetingsearch