After as little as one year using the notorious street drug methamphetamine, users can develop oral hygiene symptoms commonly known as “meth mouth” — a frightening case of extensive oral damage, tooth decay and gum disease. Meth mouth is incurable and in many cases can lead to tooth extraction. Meth, short for methamphetamine, is common on the streets, but is also sometimes prescribed to treat severe cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD, and narcolepsy. Meth is the most abused synthetic drug in America, with more than 25 million addicts worldwide from its euphoric highs. Used as a recreational stimulant, it can be ingested in a number of ways — swallowed, snorted, injected and smoked — but smoking this substance is the most dangerous, providing quicker access to the brain and bloodstream. Meth has double the potency of cocaine and is extremely addictive. Although meth mouth is the most common side effect of methamphetamine abuse, the drug carries many other side effects. Other symptoms of meth abuse and addiction include:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Acne, infection and other skin problems
meth mouth
One of the common signs of long-term methamphetamine addiction is tooth decay. Using meth causes an abuser’s teeth to first stain, then decay and eventually fall out as early as one year into abusing meth.

Methamphetamine is an acidic drug that dries out the mouth, debilitating the salivary glands that would normally help to prevent acids from eating away at tooth enamel.  Without this defense, teeth can easily decay. In addition, meth intensifies cravings for sugary drinks and sodas that alone could cause significant damage to the teeth.

Because of its addictive nature, methamphetamine can cause users to neglect daily hygiene routines. That specifically includes brushing teeth. Methamphetamine also causes anxiety and nervousness, resulting in users grinding and clenching their teeth.

Meth Mouth Symptoms

The severity of meth mouth differs from one person to the next. While some meth addicts may lose a several teeth from decay and gum disease, other addicts may only suffer from a few cavities. Some of the most common symptoms of meth mouth include:

  • Cotton mouth
  • Gum disease
  • Red, swollen gums
  • Tooth decay
  • Clenching or grinding of teeth
  • Cravings for sugary drinks
  • Inconsistent oral hygiene

Treating Meth Mouth

The effects of “meth mouth” are irreversible from so much oral damage, costing thousands of dollars in dental work. Depending on the level of corrosion and decay, users may need teeth extractions, implants and sometimes even dentures to reconstruct what once was. On the other hand, those who have less damage could walk away with a few fillings and crowns.  

Overall, to prevent further damage, experts urge users to seek help and to stop abusing methamphetamine. Full recovery is dependent on detoxification, rehabilitation, improved dietary habits and improved oral hygiene.

Recovering From Meth Addiction

Recovery from meth addiction can be difficult, specifically because there are no medications to ease withdrawal symptoms. Full, cold turkey withdrawal can prove to be fatal with severe meth addictions. For that reason, a user should wean off of methamphetamine over time until the dependency becomes low enough to eliminate from a day-to-day routine. This tapering process is extremely difficult, and is best done under medical supervision.

In addition, experts recommend meth addicts participate in behavioral therapy and counseling as a part of rehabilitation treatment. Full recovery from the drug can take months, and brain functions can improve after a year of abstaining.

Meth addiction can be a tough journey to face alone, but it doesn’t have to be. There are ample resources available to help find treatment and recovery centers for addicts. If you or someone you know is suffering from meth addiction, don’t be afraid to seek help, contact the Recovery Village today.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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