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“Meth mouth” – it’s a slang term used to describe the condition of tooth decay and cracked enamel that often occurs in the mouths of those who use crystal meth chronically, and it’s a huge red flag for potential meth addiction in an individual. For that reason, dentists are encouraged to take note of the condition in their patients, initiate a brief intervention or conversation about the effects of ongoing crystal meth abuse, and encourage the patient to seek treatment for the problem.
Though dentists are not expected to “save” anyone from an active addiction, one more person in an addict’s life who comments on the need for treatment can move the addict closer to being ready to embrace positive change through an effective drug rehab program.
In hopes of encouraging dentists across the country to be more proactive in this area, Jennifer Towers, the Director of Research Affairs at Tufts School of Dental Medicine in Massachusetts, has launched a campaign to educate dentists about “meth mouth.”
Said Towers to The Boston Globe: “Meth mouth really dovetails well with drug prevention efforts because it’s so startling. ”
The Facts About Meth
In addition to helping dentists to recognize what they’re looking at when they see a patient with meth mouth, Towers provides patients with information as well, including:
Screensavers of before and after pictures of meth mouth, which can be displayed in exam rooms
A graphic novel appropriate for preteens
Software that demonstrates how teeth and gums deteriorate during meth use
Towers believes that the graphic images will be able to help dissuade patients from starting to use meth if they haven’t tried it yet and encourage them to stop if they’ve already started, especially teens and young adults.
Said Towers: “I got a group of 14-year-old girls to be very silent when I showed them the before and after pictures [of meth addicts]. Especially in mid-teen range, they’re pretty concerned about their appearance.”