Maybe you don’t smile anymore or you have perfected laughing with your mouth closed. You do your best to talk without moving your mouth too much and you rarely sing anymore. Meth has made your life harder and “meth mouth” is one of the reasons. You’re still worthy of love. You’re still worthy of compassion. Remember that. There’s a lot of stigma around meth—and meth mouth in particular. It’s easy for people to make snap judgments when they see something like meth mouth. It can be easy to make quick assumptions about someone based on fleeting appearances, but we believe in taking the time to know people and understand someone else’s situation. Let’s take a look at meth mouth and get a better understanding of what it is and how it happens.
This Is What Meth Mouth Looks Like
Some drugs don’t leave behind an easily identified visual effect, but meth certainly does. Not only does it leave someone’s face looking sunken, wrinkled, and much older than they may actually be, it also can eat away their teeth until they are black nubs or missing altogether. During this time, teeth can break, rot, or fall out. Additionally, meth mouth can increase the likelihood of contracting a gum disease.
Signs and symptoms of meth mouth include:
- Dry mouth (xerostomia)
- Cracked teeth, missing teeth, teeth that fall out
- Gum disease
- Teeth grinding or clenching the teeth
- Cavities and micro-cavities
- Black rotting teeth
- Bad breath
An example of meth mouth According to MouthHealthy, a site sponsored by the American Dental Association, some data was presented, as follows: An examination of the mouths of 571 methamphetamine users showed:
- 96% had cavities
- 58% had untreated tooth decay
- 31% had six or more missing teeth
From these numbers, it is clear that meth mouth is a condition that requires attention and treatment. You should feel free to bring up concerns with your dentist or primary physician about your dental health related to substance use. But before discussing the options, you have to address meth mouth. Let’s explore some of the reasons why this condition happens at all.
What Causes Meth Mouth?
Doctors and scientists give more than a couple of reasons for why meth mouth happens to someone struggling with meth use. First up, the ingredients in most common forms of the drug are chemicals that can damage the teeth. Some of those ingredients include chemicals that are regularly found in battery acid, fertilizer, and on the outside of matchboxes. Inhaling these ingredients can have a destructive effect on the surface of teeth. But that’s not the only reason meth mouth shows up. Another side effect of using meth is dry mouth. When meth causes someone’s saliva to dry up it also makes the mouth’s natural acids and bacteria begin eating away at the teeth. Dry saliva glands can also make bacterial production more favorable. The damage can start adding up, too, because meth also won’t let the body heal naturally. The decay due to the body’s acids can make it easier for cavities to set it. Eventually, some cavities will start to appear, which at first might not seem too bad. After all, don’t most people experience some cavities during their life? Well, it is true that cavities generally aren’t something that most people panic about. But meth can also cause a desire to eat sugary foods, grind teeth, and generally neglect proper dental hygiene. All these issues individually might not seem that bad, but together, they represent problems that will worsen tooth and gum decay. Meth causes blood vessels to get smaller which won’t let blood flow to the places the body is noticing damage. Think about when you skin your knee on the sidewalk. Blood clots at the injury to start the healing process, and that’s because our bodies use blood as a kind of fuel. As the blood vessels in a person’s body continue to shrink due to repeated meth use, the vessels in the gums will eventually die and oral tissue will begin to deteriorate. [middle-callout]
Can You Reverse Meth Mouth?
Now that you’ve learned a little bit more about this condition, the next step is probably asking, can the effects of meth mouth be reversed? What kind of help or treatment is available? The reality of this condition is that it can be quite tricky to treat. Now, that doesn’t mean you will automatically be stuck with rotting teeth or should be worried about spending the rest of your life hoping that your teeth don’t fall out. If you have a meth mouth and the teeth and gums are in a current state of deterioration, it’s highly unlikely that the effects can be reserved. Once permanent damage is done, it’s nearly impossible to reverse. If you think back to the example of skinning your knee on the sidewalk, the damage there is done. You can’t take back the injury, although the body will work to protect the area and grow new skin. Adult teeth, as we know, only come in one set. Although children lose their baby teeth and grow adult teeth, adults don’t have a natural built-in backup pair as insurance for any damage. If you are just in the very early stages of developing tooth or gum decay, there is a chance you can reverse the damage through excellent dental hygiene, and of course, seeking meth treatment programs to fully break away from its use. The usual process for meth mouth treatment involves removing teeth that have been affected by the use of the substance. Overall, the goals of treatment for meth mouth will involve trying to return the normal flow of saliva, minimize tooth decay, and encourage better dental hygiene now and in the future. Some dental procedures may also be able to limit damage or correct issues and complications that arise. In these cases, it is best to seek dental help as soon as possible. Whether you are dealing with meth mouth or with a different injury, it is always better to seek help as soon as you can. Wouldn’t you much rather go to the dentist when your gums begin to dry out, rather than when your teeth are falling out? Seeking help earlier in the process can save you from having to experience more serious consequences and side effects. As complications continue to grow, getting treatment becomes a longer process—not to mention more expensive. In summary: no, meth mouth cannot always be reversed. Reversal is more probable if the damage is very slight and has not progressed to a critical point. If only a slight amount of damage has taken place, you can manage your condition by aiming to break meth use and keeping up good dental hygiene practices.
Taking the Steps Towards Meth Addiction Treatment
Treating meth mouth once it has already caused damage to your teeth and gums is a difficult journey. As with many other conditions, think of treating meth mouth as reactive care. In the healthcare world, there are two very general categories of care: preventive care and reactive care. Preventive care is designed to address issues that are currently happening in order to prevent complications later. Reactive care is designed to address the complications, or only reacting to the problem once it comes up. When we apply this new information to the issue of meth mouth, we can see that meth mouth treatment is reactive treatment in a way. In order to practice preventive care, it would be important to first get into meth addiction treatment. By addressing the root of the issue rather than a symptom of the issue, you can save yourself from more expensive medical complications and health scares down the road. This is why addressing substance use dependency and addiction earlier on is so important. If you take preventive care steps now, you might not have to deal with conditions such as meth mouth down the road. Instead, you can start living your healthiest life right now. At The Bluffs, we offer a meth rehab program where you can get the help you need to start turning your life around today. Inpatient rehab consists mostly of therapy, both individual and group sessions, where you will learn more about the root of your addiction and learn skills and tools to help you build a life away from addiction. All of our addiction treatment programs are built around evidence-based programs, and we utilize therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). These two therapies will help you unlearn negative and self-destructive thought patterns, while also growing in emotional maturity and interpersonal relationships. During your inpatient therapy experience you will live at the facility and give yourself the time needed away from your comfort zone and usual environment. Getting away from your normal environment can play a big part in successful recovery. Comfortable environments are often full of temptations to return to substance use. Those temptations can be people, places, or things related to your meth habits. Our facility in the hills of Ohio and overlooking a beautiful lake, provides a serene and relaxing environment for your treatment. Recovery can be rough enough, so try to be kind to yourself. If you are actively in recovery or are just beginning, keep in mind that it’s a journey and your life will change. Take the step today! At The Bluffs, we know that dealing with the consequences of substance use takes a hard toll on people. Meth mouth is just one consequence of a deep-rooted meth addiction. You have the power to turn your life around. Make the call today to help yourself move towards the best future possible. Call 888-481-7821 to speak with a qualified counselor.
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes meth mouth? The ingredients found in most common forms of meth are chemicals that can damage teeth. Some of those ingredients include chemicals that are regularly found in battery acid, fertilizer, and on the outside of matchboxes. Dry mouth, a side effect of meth use, is also to blame. Without saliva to counteract the mouth’s natural acids and bacteria, the teeth begin being eaten away. Gums can also suffer damage at this time. Over time, damage to teeth and gums can make teeth more susceptible to cavities. Cavities are also spurred on by meth’s effect of inducing sugar cravings, teeth grinding or clenching, and a general neglect of dental hygiene. How long does it take to get meth mouth? The ADA explains that a user of meth can go from normal, healthy teeth to decaying teeth (“meth mouth”) within a year. How to get rid of meth mouth? If the damage has not progressed very far, it may be possible to reverse the effects of meth mouth by stopping meth use and focusing on practicing very good dental hygiene. If the consequences of meth have reached a more significant peak of decay and rotting on the teeth, tooth extraction and dentures may be the only option. Consult with a dental professional for more information.