The Wrong Road
Meth Mouth is becoming more and more prevalent in current and former users of this extremely addictive drug and this is a critical issue, not only to dentists, but to parents and society alike. Teeth decay rapidly, causing the destruction known as meth mouth. Meth mouth is the culmination of years of crystal meth use. Using crystal meth, also known as ice or crank, causes Sicca syndrome (extreme dryness of the mouth), thirst, decreased appetite, inability to sleep followed by several days of extremely deep sleep. Not to mention hallucinations, loss of short term memory, personality changes, paranoia, Parkinson-like symptoms, liver disease, weakening of blood vessels, increased blood pressures, strokes and heart attacks.
It all adds up to rampant dental decay in such a distinctive pattern that it has become known, euphemistically, as meth mouth. Persons using crystal meth, tweeking for days at a time, often stay awake and high for five to thirty days. During this period, the acrid smoke, decreased saliva flow, poor hygiene, lack of dental care, and extended periods of sleep and of continuous activity take their toll on teeth, leading to Meth Mouth.
Teeth begin to decalcify due to the highly acidic, moist, dark, environment, a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and thereby, dental decay. In Meth mouth, teeth develop decay along the gumline, called cervical caries, which weaken the tooth structure. Cleaving is often seen, with large vertical fractures of the enamel. The hardest substance in the human body, teeth sucumb to the effects of crystal meth and the result is METH MOUTH.
In the early stages of meth mouth, dentists may notice cervical (gumline) cavities and sometimes interproximal caries (cavities between teeth) Teachers or parents will see these cavities as dark spots between the front teeth, a telltale sign of tooth decay. As crystal meth use continues, so does the degredation of the enamel, as it is exposed over and over to physical and chemical insults.
Even if the individual discontinues the use of methamphetamines, the enamel has been weakened and teeth are more susceptible to tooth decay, dental caries. If caries have begun, they will continue to develop if the individual does not receive dental care, often leading to complete destruction of the tooth involved or, in some cases, the entire dentition.
Teeth look as though they have been dipped in battery acid and, in a way, they have. The coronal portion of the teeth will decay to the gum line, abscess, and become non-restorable as no tooth structure remains above the bone line. Often, the gingiva will grow over the remaining stumps of roots and extractions become extremely difficult, as teeth have been reduced to extremely soft mush by crystal meth use.
Many crystal meth users are unable to hold jobs as they have no short term memory, making it hard for them to learn new procedures, they are unreliable, jittery, and paranoid. Additionally, severe decay in their teeth, especially their front teeth where the smoke from crank touches the mouth first, is readily apparent when they speak; a 'flashing red light' of sorts, to prospective employers.
Patients will, unable to tolerate they pain and unable to locate a dentist willing to work for free, lance abscesses themselves or extract teeth with needle nose pliers.
If they manage to apply for medical assistance, and manage to find a dentist who accepts medical assistance, their chief complaint is usually "I can't stand the pain... Can you save my teeth?"
Individuals who have used crystal meth for six years have had to have all their teeth removed and dentures placed at age 22.
This is the net result of Meth Mouth: DENTURES.
Do not forget that Meth Mouth is only one of many of the results of the use of crystal meth. Organ systems affected result in heart failure, strokes, liver failure and loss of memory at extremely young ages, often in patients as young as 22. Meth Mouth is only the outward signs.
The destruction is deep to the core.
The adult dentition has 32 teeth.
In as little as 4 years they can be reduced to rubble.
THESE ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF USING CRYSTAL METH.
Copyright Dr. Mitchell A. Goodis, DDS
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