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Meth Mouth - How Meth Affects Teeth and Gums

A man is sitting on a bed in an addiction recovery center, with his hand on his face.

Methamphetamine (known as meth for short) is a dangerously addictive drug that has some of the most severe health consequences of any illicit drug on the market. It can even lead to stroke, psychosis, various mental disorders, and even permanent brain damage. However, one of the most common symptoms of meth use is called “meth mouth.”

So, what is meth mouth? What are its causes? What does meth mouth look like? Finally, where can you get help if you or someone you love is suffering from meth addiction?

In today’s post, we will answer all of these questions and more, but first, let’s look at the condition known as meth mouth and some of the most important facts and statistics related to meth use.

What Is Meth Mouth?

Though it is not a recognized condition diagnosed by medical professionals, “meth mouth” is the colloquial name for a common symptom of regular meth use. More specifically, meth mouth is characterized by severe decay of the teeth, as well as gum disease. The deterioration of oral health can lead many teeth to crack, break, or fall out entirely.

Sadly, this is not just a symptom that can be seen in a small percentage of meth addicts. In fact, it is one of the most common and easily recognizable signs of regular meth abuse. In a study of over 500 meth users, researchers recorded the following statistics:

  • Nearly all participants had cavities
  • More than half had untreated tooth decay
  • Almost one-third had at least six missing teeth

Naturally, it is not fair to assume that someone is addicted to meth just because their teeth do not look perfect. However, meth users often have very distinctive oral hygiene problems. In fact, the teeth of a regular meth abuser are often dark yellow, grey, or even black in color. Additionally, they may have a rotting smell and appearance. In the most severe cases, they could be soft, crumbling, or falling apart. Sadly, once drug users reach a certain stage of meth mouth, the teeth cannot be salvaged and must be removed.

What Causes Meth Mouth?

Extensive research has shown that the severity of tooth decay is directly linked with the amount of meth used. In other words, heavy users will almost always experience worse cases of tooth decay and gum disease. Meth mouth is also more common in women, smokers, and users over the age of 30.

Though meth can be taken in a variety of ways (smoking, snorting, injecting, taking pills, etc), the intense effects can last for up to 12 hours. Since drug users are often focused on getting and maintaining high, this can lead to extended periods with little concern for dental hygiene. This means that meth users are far more likely to brush their teeth, use mouth wash, or floss while being high.

To make matters worse, meth users often crave sugary beverages that increase the amount and frequency of plaque, cavities, and gum disease. Meth also produces high levels of energy in users, which can often cause clenching or grinding of the teeth. When combined, all of these factors can make meth mouth even worse.

How Meth Rots Your Teeth

While all the effects of meth can make it less likely for abusers to practice good oral hygiene, these are not the only reason that meth can rot your teeth. There are several other factors that contribute to meth mouth and either a direct or indirect result of regular meth abuse. These factors include:

  • Dry mouth – Meth is known for creating dry mouth by inhibiting the flow of saliva to the salivary glands. Saliva provides natural protection to teeth, so when there is a lack of it, teeth are more prone to get damaged or rot. Without saliva, teeth have no natural line of defense.
  • Users often pass out – Since the “high” produced by meth lasts for a substantial period of time, it often causes users to pass out from exhaustion. They may even pass out and wake up multiple times during one session. While passed out, meth users will breathe through their mouths, enhancing the effects of dry mouth. This makes it even harder for teeth to be protected for hours or even days on end.
  • Meth has acidic qualities – The meth sold on street corners is often made using a combination of pure methamphetamine and various acidic byproducts. Like acidic foods, acidic drugs can eat at the enamel on teeth, speeding up tooth decay. Common meth additives can include battery acid, lye, and over-the-counter cold medications.
  • Teeth grinding – As previously mentioned, one of the most common signs of a meth high is teeth grinding and clenching. This can naturally grind away at the surface of teeth. As tooth decay sets in, this grinding can cause even further damage to soft or broken teeth.
  • Sugar rot – The consumption of sugary snacks and drinks does even more damage to teeth, particularly when a meth user is not practicing good dental hygiene. When sugar is allowed to sit in the crevices of your teeth. This is even more harmful since there is little or no saliva to help protect your teeth or wash away the excess sugar.
  • Enamel Destruction – The use of meth naturally releases toxic chemicals that cause damage to tooth enamel. This is the primary reason that early meth users start to get yellow meth teeth, while extended use can lead to brown, grey, or black discoloration. Eventually, this decay can cause meth abusers to lose their teeth entirely.

Meth Mouth Treatment

Unfortunately, it is difficult to treat meth mouth without treating the underlying meth addiction. One of the primary reasons that meth mouth occurs is the poor dental hygiene practiced by meth addicts. Over time, this lack of oral hygiene can cause irreversible tooth decay. So, the key is identifying meth addiction as soon as possible and getting the addiction treatment that you or someone you love needs.

If you find that a friend or family member is dealing with meth addiction, your first priority should be support. You need to show compassion and sympathy so that they know you are on their side. There’s a good chance that they may not be thinking clearly, especially if they are using the drug every day. However, if you can extend a helping hand, then you have already taken the first step toward recovery on their behalf.

Fortunately, if you opt for high-quality drug rehab or a residential drug treatment program, you greatly increase the chances of helping your loved one get over their addiction to meth for good.

In addition to treating meth addiction, you can also combat the signs of meth mouth by brushing your teeth, flossing, using mouth wash, and avoiding sugary drinks or foods. Moreover, you should reach out to a dentist, as you might require tooth extraction to prevent infections. In any case, these actions will help you reduce the effects of meth mouth while you work to overcome your addiction.

Are you, your child, friend, coworker, parent, or spouse struggling with their meth mouth or meth addiction? Are you looking for meth abuse treatment options that target each patient’s specific needs? Finally, are you in need of a comprehensive meth rehab center that provides a wide range of effective solutions? If so, feel free to contact the experts at Prosperity Haven to learn more about getting help at our residential drug treatment center.


Take the First Step and Reach Out Today