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Methamphetamine Use & Dental Care

Methamphetamine is an inexpensive, easy-to-make illicit drug. It is know by several street names: 'meth', 'speed', 'ice', 'chalk', 'crank', 'fire', 'glass', 'crystal', and 'tina'. It is made in illegal laboratories.

It is an addictive drug that affects the nervous system. It causes high levels of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin to accumulate in the brain which stimulates brain cells and produces euphoria. Users may become addicted quickly and use the drug with increasing frequency and in ever-larger doses.

The use of methamphetamine is on the rise even though it produces devastating effects on user's health and well-being. Methamphetamine can cause shortness of breath, increased respiration, hyperthermia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, an irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and permanent brain damage. Other effects include irritability, insomnia, confusion, hallucinations, tremors, convulsions, anxiety, paranoia and aggressiveness.

Meth Mouth

Rampant tooth decay is another common side effect. Some users describe their teeth as blackened, stained, rotting, crumbling or falling apart. This condition is often called 'meth mouth'. Often there is no hope of treating the methamphetamine damaged teeth and they are extracted.

The causes of methamphetamine related tooth decay may include the following:

  • The drug's acidic nature
  • Its ability to dry the mouth reducing the amount of protective saliva around the teeth
  • A drug induced craving for high calorie carbonated beverages
  • The tendency of users to grind and clench their teeth
  • The duration of the drug's effects (12 hours versus one hour for cocaine) which leads to long periods when users are not likely to clean their teeth

Dentists, parents and others should be concerned if they notice patients, family members or friends especially teenagers and young adults who have unaccounted for and accelerated tooth decay. Heavy users may appear malnourished because methamphetamine acts as an appetite suppressant.

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