Meth and the Mouth

Glendale Dentist Serving Phoenix, Scottsdale, Peoria, and nearby areas in Arizona

Using meth has a dramatic affect on the oral cavity. Here are some of the major issues we at Desert Smiles, office of Dr. Donald L. Wilcox want you to know.

Xerostomia. As a stimulant, meth can cause dry mouth by slowing salivary gland production. Patients should be encouraged to drink water rather than trying to quench their thirst with sodas, sports drinks or fruit juices that contain sugar. Without saliva to buffer acid attacks, decay can happen quickly and extensively. Preventive fluoride treatments both in-office and at home are strongly recommended to strengthen and remineralize the damaged enamel rods.

Dental Caries. While decay can happen in any tooth, meth users who smoke or snort the drug display the most oral effects. Decay will likely be found along facial gum-lines, root surfaces, and interproximals of the upper anterior teeth. The decay spreads quickly around the tooth, causing such enamel destruction that extraction becomes the only choice.

The patients may not experience the pain you would expect from such extensive decay because meth can block or lessen the effects of pain.

Local Anesthetics. Beware of the interaction between illicit drugs and local anesthetics. As with any stimulant, using a local anesthetic with epinephrine, in a meth user could lead to a heart arrhythmia or a medical emergency. Completing a full and truthful medical history during your dental visits will help Dr. Wilcox and staff evaluate the proper treatment for both your teeth and medical health.

Cracked teeth. Meth can cause users to feel anxious or nervous, so they often clench or grind their teeth. Constant grinding can cause severe attrition and unnatural wear patterns. Meth users will often suck on hard candy, lollipops, or even infant pacifiers to keep from grinding/clenching.

Lesions. Meth smokers can experience lesions and/or burns on their lips, gums, oral mucosa, or hard palate. "Gummers" place the meth on the facial gingival under the upper lip and may develop canker sores/chemical burns in this area. When meth is snorted burns in the back of the throat may occur. Meth also decreases a person’s ability to fight infection and heal appropriately after injury.

Periodontal disease. Meth users do not seek regular dental treatment, so they often will have gingivitis or periodontitis from lack of adequate home or professional oral care.

These conditions left untreated can lead to tooth loss, systemic inflammation and other medical abnormalities.

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