Methamphetamine’s Effect on Oral Health

March 28, 2019

We can barely get through one day without hearing about the rising rates of drug addiction in our country. Or sadly, hearing the heartbreaking story of someone we know that has a loved one struggling with addiction. Drug addiction has crippling effects on families, communities and individuals. As dental professionals, we are trained and very aware to look for the oral signs of drug abuse. It is a difficult but necessary conversation we all need to have. We always have our patients best interest and overall health as our first priority. If you know someone who is struggling with addiction, please share the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline with them.

It is common to see rampant tooth decay (“Meth Mouth”) in most individuals abusing Meth long term.This is typically a result of dry mouth (xerostomia) and long periods of poor oral hygiene. Meth itself is also acidic, lowering the pH of the oral cavity. Dry mouth in any population is a big risk factor for cavities.  If proper care is not taken to counteract the effects of dry mouth, decay progresses quickly. If a patient is in recovery and ready to restore their teeth, there are many steps we can take. First of all, adding a high concentration source of sodium fluoride is imperative. This fluoride will prevent new decay from starting, as we are restoring existing cavities.

Many people recovering from Methamphetamine addiction may not be ready financially to completely restore their teeth. In this case Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF) may be the best alternative. SDF is applied topically and is approved for use as a desensitizing agent. The extra benefit to SDF is that it has also been shown to arrest dental caries. In conjunction with regular sodium fluoride use, we can develop a short term plan to control rampant tooth decay. Your dentist and hygienist will work with you to develop an individualized plan based on your needs and desires. Restoring your oral health can be a long road at this point, but we will be with you every step of the way

Other factors to look at are lifestyle habits that can lead to the progression of tooth decay. Tobacco use is also common in those abusing recreational drugs. If this is something you also struggle with,  we can help you with the resources for cessation. We will also discuss the impact of your diet on your oral health, as high sugar diets can accelerate cavities as well. There is no one size fits all model here, and we will help you with any and all modifiable risk factors to reduce your risk for future cavities.

We are aware that the result of rampant decay can leave many feeling ashamed or hopeless about their teeth, but we are always here to help. Our office is judgment free and  our goal is to provide you with the best oral health care possible. If you or someone you know is ready to restore their smile on their road to recovery, we would love to help. Please share the National Helpline with anyone you think may benefit from it!



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Dimensions of Dental Hygiene Journal:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:


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