Meth Mouth: The Detrimental Effects of Methamphetamine on Dental Health

Meta mouth is not a single disease, but the combination of several situations. We tell you why it appears and how it can be treated.

Last update: 01 September, 2022

The expression “meth mouth” designates a pathological condition in the oral cavity that has been associated with the use of methamphetamines. It is not a single disease, but a set of problems that appear when a person is addicted to this drug.

Although there are reports of a decrease in the consumption of methamphetamines, it is not a situation that has been overcome. In the United States, for example, up to 1% of those over the age of 12 have taken the drug in the past year. And it is known that in the same country, 0.6% have problematic consumption or an addiction itself.

The ease with which the drug is obtained and the synthesis of its designer form, called “crystal methamphetamine” or crystal methhave given him popularity. Although it has been with humans for more than 100 years, the presentation in glass had its heyday in the 1990s.

And it is this decade that finds the first reports of cases with “meta mouth”. The concern was greater when it was found that the clinical picture was associated with children and adolescents.

methamphetamine

The correct chemical name is methylamphetamine and was born as a medical product. In 1893 the molecule had already been synthesized and at the beginning of 1920 it had a patent registered as a product.

In fact, was sold for paramedical employment freely in Europe. Especially in Germany.

The crystalline design form was illegally traded in California and from there it spread all over the world. It is used for smoking and to obtain the stimulating effects on the central nervous system. It is common for users to combine it with cocaine.

Methamphetamine acts on neurons in the central nervous system., increasing the concentrations of dopamine and norepinephrine. At the same time, it reduces the reuptake that neurons make of these substances, so their presence increases more.

That is why the direct effect of the drug is stimulation. The brain is able to work more efficiently and with less exhaustion; at least for a few moments. People who consume report that they have more power, that they are more alert, that they are less afraid and that they feel greater sexual desire.

This remains during the so-called “high”. There is a euphoria that is pleasant and even acts as an analgesicblocking pain sensations.

It is understood, then, that the addiction to methamphetamine is so powerful and it is difficult to initiate a process of detoxification. However, tolerance to the drug is rapid, so more and more of it is required to obtain the same “high”.



effects of methamphetamine on the body

The health effects go beyond “meth mouth,” which we’ll talk about in more detail later. Users often go from the initial excitement to the “slump”with tremors, insomnia and lack of appetite that is perpetuated.

When consumption becomes chronic and there is addiction, the person’s behavior changes. More violence, paranoid states and hallucinations are recorded.

An overdose can also occur, when the person consumes too much at one time. The seriousness of these pictures is notorious, with risk of life. Patients have palpitations, vomiting, and seizures. If not treated in time, it leads to ventricular fibrillation and even acute myocardial infarction.

On the other hand, methamphetamine withdrawal syndrome has the following symptoms:

  • depression or anxiety
  • extreme fatigue
  • Uncontrollable desire to consume.

Pregnant women addicted to methamphetamine have recorded a higher incidence of premature births and abortions. Also, the drug is capable of causing malformations in the fetus, with delayed development.

All drugs are capable of causing harmful effects on the fetus. Methamphetamine is associated with restrictions on the development of the baby.

What is meth mouth?

Specifically, prolonged methamphetamine use is believed to be capable of causing a combination of problems in the oral cavity, including the following:

  • Xerostomia or dry mouth.
  • Extensive and deep caries.
  • Bruxism or grinding of teeth.
  • Trismus or contracture of the masseter muscles.

Caries are characteristic in these patients. The teeth take on a strong blackish coloration and there is an aggressive crumbling which causes the loss of almost all of the tooth. This makes it possible to see directly the maxillary bone that is exposed.

Scientific studies that compared drug-using populations with those that did not use it found notable differences. In addicted people there is a higher prevalence of caries. In addition, greater amounts of bacterial plaque and more dental calculus are recorded.

When the effect of methamphetamine on the mouth was compared to the same effect that other drugs (such as heroin) might cause, it was found that meth mouth appears more quickly. In other words, patients addicted to glass suffer the negative effects on their teeth earlier and more seriously.



Why does meth mouth happen?

As we could verify, meth mouth is a combination of pathological situations. It is not just about cavities, but there is also dry mouth and bruxism.

Therefore, the most accepted theory is that addiction causes physical changes, but also behavioral ones, which leads to the combination of many risk factors in the same person. Addicted patients tend to brush much less, to consume soft drinks and not water, as well as to eat less nutritionally.

Crystal meth is acidic. When combined with the sugar in soft drinks, in a context of poor oral hygiene, it is a breeding ground for cavities.

Regarding saliva, some researchers found that the drug alters its acidity. Therefore, with a greater presence of sugar for bacteria, the risk of caries increases significantly. The concomitant effect of other substances that often accompany methamphetamine use cannot be ruled out either. Here it is worth mentioning cocaine, but also alcohol. Anyway, lack of proper oral hygiene is always at the base.

It is not uncommon for people with designer drug addictions to report intense, constant thirst and a persistent sensation of dry mouth. Therefore, meth mouth xerostomia would be one more symptom in addiction.

Finally, teeth grinding does appear to be a direct effect of the drug and its route of administration. A scientific study found that addicted people who smoked methamphetamine had more bruxism than those who injected it intravenously.

Persistent grinding disrupts the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and wears down the enamel. This is the outermost layer of the tooth. When corroding due to excessive tightening, there is dental sensitivity and an essential protection barrier for the health of the dental elements is lost.

The mouth of goal and the necrosis of the jaws

Some clinical case reports that have occurred in recent years have mentioned the situation of patients with osteonecrosis. Namely, death of the bone tissue of his jaws, after prolonged and sustained consumption of methamphetamine.

This would be one more element of the picture known as the “mouth of the goal”, although not all scientists agree. For some, it is a manifestation of another disease called “drug-related osteonecrosis of the jaws.”

Drug-induced osteonecrosis of the jaw occurs when a patient suffers from the death of cells in the bones of the face due to the intake of drugs. The most associated are bisphosphonates, which are prescribed for severe osteoporosis.

It is speculated that methamphetamine has similar consequences. Namely, would have the power to accelerate bone wearat the same time that it would stop the healing capacity of osteoblasts, which are the cells responsible for producing new bone tissue.

The result is necrosis of the jaws because more tissue is lost than new is generated. Thus, when a patient addicted to methamphetamine has a tooth extracted, there is a risk that the wound will expose part of the bone that is at the bottom, with the possibility of infection.

It has also been speculated that patients with osteonecrosis of the jaws are victims of a low-quality drug that they obtain at a lower price. In a precise way, the risk would appear to be greater when high-phosphorous methamphetamine is used.

Excess phosphorus produces a similar picture, called a “fossil jaw.” There is weak bone tissue, necrosis, bacterial infections on the jaw wounds, and fistulae that drain pus into the oral cavity. It had already been described as intoxication in matchbox factory employees in the 19th century.

The skull bones are susceptible to damage under the effect of certain drugs or medications.

Meta mouth treatment

One of the biggest problems when treating meth mouth is that patients do not usually admit that they use the substance. Therefore, it is not uncommon for the dentist to find the signs of the syndrome, although without being able to confirm that the origin is the drug.

If there is suspicion that the patient is a methamphetamine user, then the professional has to take some precautions. In the first instance, biosecurity is key. It is likely that the intravenously addicted person also has blood-borne diseases, such as hepatitis C.

Nor should an approach be initiated to treat caries, for example, if the patient attends the consultation with obvious signs of intoxication. That is, if you are hallucinating or in a paranoid state.

Also, placement of an anesthetic can interact with methamphetamine. Due to the increase in norepinephrine in the patient, dental medications have the ability to increase the risk of a myocardial infarction or arrhythmia.

As a general rule, a methamphetamine-addicted patient attending a dental office should not receive local anesthesia with norepinephrine. Nor general anesthesia, which changes the respiratory rate, already altered by the drug.

Beyond the precautions mentioned, the treatments to be implemented must follow the usual steps to solve cavities, bruxism and xerostomia. The special situation of osteonecrosis does require a particular approach.

This disease is almost always treated surgically. Attempts are made to remove dead tissue and remove it from the body. 100% effectiveness is not guaranteed, but most patients can stop the deterioration of their jaw bones. Of course, if they stop using methamphetamine along with the surgery.

Meta mouth prevention

Meta mouth patients are addicted to a drug that alters their daily behavior. In terms of oral health, they have poor hygiene and the condition of their teeth and gums worsens as time goes by.

The prevention of the meth mouth joins the prevention of all the negative effects you have methamphetamine in your body. In other words, the best approach is to prevent a person from becoming addicted or, in any case, to recover and rehabilitate someone who already is.

Meanwhile, the attention of a person with addiction, before they develop meth mouth, has to focus on improving oral hygiene habits. Some simple daily habit-forming commands can help, so that the patient incorporates brushing or even is able to practice rinsing.

If you have problematic consumption of any illegal substance, do not hesitate to consult a health professional. It is possible to help you curb addictive use and prevent complications in your mouth and throughout your body.

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