Addicts, as well as caregivers, often overlook Meth mouth. Though it is a well-known and common side-effect, it doesn’t attract as much attention as other effects. Nevertheless, you should seek immediate treatment as soon as you notice the signs.
A Quick Overview of Methamphetamine and Its Abuse
Methamphetamine or meth is a stimulant medication that is available only with a doctor’s prescription, which is usually used to treat ADHD.
Due to its addictive nature, a significant number of people abuse it leading to various side effects.
Unfortunately, it is much more common for meth to be used as a recreational drug than as a medication. Though it’s been used to help with severe cases of ADHD and narcolepsy, it is much more common among addicts. In 2012 alone, 1.2 million people in the United States admitted to using meth within the past year, according to National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Considering meth’s highly addictive properties the probability that a large amount of those who have tried it end up addicted is extremely high.
Why is Meth Addictive?
From the very first use, meth carves out a pathway in your brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine. Dopamine releases the sensation in the brain of a job well-done, and of satisfaction. With continued use, users can reach a point where the only way to feel this is through the use of meth. This is why it is so difficult for meth addicts to simply stop using, despite the various dangerous and painful side effects, like “meth mouth”. Though the list of the most common side effect displayed in meth addicts goes on and on, here are just a few:
- High blood pressure
- Skin problems such as acne and infections
- Permanent brain damage
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Meth can be taken in a couple of different ways. It can be snorted, injected, swallowed or smoked. Smoking is the most dangerous form of ingestion due to how fast the drug hits the bloodstream and brain. It may be too late to know you’ve smoked too much. It is also most damaging to teeth because methamphetamine itself is acidic. So not only are the side effects of the drug conducive to poor oral hygiene but the substance itself ingested through the mouth damages it on contact.
Meth Mouth Robs You of Your Right to Smile
Unfortunately, this journey does not take more than a year after you start abusing meth. Would you like to smile again? Give up the addiction right now.
The early signs of meth mouth are distinctly visible. Watch for the following signs if you or your loved one is using:
- Black stains on the tooth
- Tooth fractures
- Dental pain
- Yellow coat on the tooth
Failure to treat the early signs may lead to permanent tooth loss. In fact, many addicts have to wear full dentures for the rest of their life.
What Causes Meth Mouth?
Dryness of mouth due to chronic addiction is the main culprit behind Meth mouth. When your mouth becomes excessively dry, the acid levels inside the mouth skyrocket acting on the teeth and eating them up.
Poor oral hygiene further deteriorates this. Consequently, you end up losing your teeth along with your smile.
Researchers also suggest that prolonged periods of dry mouth increase your cravings for artificially sweetened drinks. Due to this, the tooth destruction process becomes even more aggressive.
What are the Effects of Meth Mouth?
Needless to say, the loss of teeth is the most visible sign indicating the ill-effects of meth mouth. If you are lucky enough and manage to retain them, they will most likely be rotten.
Other complications may include lesions on the inner surface of the mouth, prevalent gum diseases, and teeth grinding (Bruxism). Some patients who have abused it for prolonged periods are found to have difficulty chewing food. This may occur due to an increased rigidity of the muscles in the mouth.
What Does Meth Mouth Do To Your Teeth?
There is a certain order to how meth affects your teeth, causing irreversible damage in as short a period as a year. First, you may notice staining, where your teach begin to change color. Next comes decay, which is when you may notice your teeth slowly changing shape and eventually falling out. Missing teeth is part of the image associated with meth use, unfortunately. This process does not take a long time and there is nothing you can do to prevent it other than quit meth use.
Meth’s Indirect Influence On Your Teeth
That is just the direct effect of the drug on your teeth. The side effects of meth go hand in hand with the drug to create a dangerous environment for your teeth. Due to the high people experience, which involves hyperactivity and fast thoughts, it is not uncommon for people to neglect their hygiene altogether, as it simply is not a priority while under the influence. Brushing your teeth is not high on the list while on meth. With a meth high lasting anywhere from 8-24 hours, and users often chasing away withdrawal symptoms with another dose, it is not uncommon for your teeth to go ignored for days.
Another side effect of meth can be anxiety, paranoia, and stress which for many results in a habit of grinding their teeth or clenching their jaw. This can cause further damage. And lastly, the dry mouth effect of meth often leaves users craving sugary beverages to quench the thirst. As may be expected a healthy and nutritiously balanced diet does not often go hand in hand with a meth addiction as well, leaving addicts lacking nutrients to help fight for oral health.
If you smoke or eat tobacco, or abuse other drugs, the risk of such complications goes up by a huge margin. Regrettably, many abusers are habitual smokers or tobacco users.
Meth Mouth Symptoms
Meth mouth may not be noticeable to others at first, as the symptoms could be caused by a variety of things, therefore making it difficult to point the finger squarely at meth use. Though with the progression of time, the symptoms become more severe and leave people looking like the poster child for anti-meth campaigns. To stop the process before it goes too far it is helpful to know the signs and symptoms. They include:
- Dry mouth (commonly known as cottonmouth)
- Swollen, red gums
- Grinding or clenching teeth
- Bad oral hygiene
- Craving sugary drinks
What Are the Treatments for Meth Mouth
As a matter of fact, the first thing you can do to salvage your teeth is to stop using meth, which might not be possible if the addiction has already taken charge of your body and the mind. For this reason, consider seeking professional help to start the detox process and rehabilitation therapies.
What You Can Do Right Now
Unfortunately, there is no cure for meth mouth. Once you lose your teeth, you cannot get them back. However, certain measures may help to prevent further damages. Here are some tips:
- Schedule an appointment with a dentist. Then, communicate clearly about your condition and expected outcome. Make a list of questions to ask and take note of what they suggest.
- Maintain proper hygiene by brushing regularly. Also, avoid sugar-loaded foods or drinks.
- Get the damaged tooth removed through surgery if your dentist recommends it. Ask them if fillings or dentures could be options.
- If you have problems with teeth grinding, wear a mouthguard.
Where to Seek Help for Meth Addiction?
Stopping the abuse not only protects your smile but also offers you a happy and sober life. If you want to know more about Meth addiction, meth mouth or any other type of dependency, talk to the experts.
Addiction counselors can suggest ways for you to fight addiction and help you come out clean. Rehabilitation centers have a team of qualified health professionals who can make your journey to sobriety swifter and easier. To know more about the addiction/rehabilitation centers near you, click here.