The Hard Truth about Methamphetamines and Oral Health

March 21, 2019

 

The rising rates of drug addiction have reached epidemic proportions in our country. What’s worse is hearing the heartbreaking stories of a loved one struggling with addiction and the crippling effects on families, communities and individuals. As dental professionals we are trained to look for the oral signs of drug abuse. It is a difficult but necessary conversation to have. We have our patients best interest and overall health always top of mind. If you know someone who is struggling with addiction, please share the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline with them.

Specific oral health effects of Methamphetamine (Meth) abuse will be our focus today. “According to a 2008 study by the United Nations, approximately 25 million individuals around the world use methamphetamine.1 Between 2008 and 2014, however, the number of methamphetamine users more than doubled. Worldwide, as many as 52 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 are estimated to have used amphetamine-type stimulants for nonmedical purposes in 2014.2 It is the second most widely abused recreational drug (following cannabis).2 (Dimensions)”

It is common to see rampant tooth decay (“Meth Mouth”) in most individuals abusing Meth long term. Dry mouth (xerostomia) and long term poor oral hygiene are two of the most common causes of such decay. Dry mouth in any population is a big risk factor for cavities. Meth itself is also acidic, lowering the pH of the oral cavity. Decay will progress rapidly if proper treatment is not taken. 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.

For many people recovering from Methamphetamine addiction the financial cost of restoration can be overwhelming. 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 Hadlock team would be happy 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.

We know that the result of rampant decay can leave many feeling ashamed or hopeless about their teeth, but we are always here to help. We offer no judgments and are only looking 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. As we stated earlier, please share the National Hotline with anyone you think may benefit from it!

 

SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

 

Resources:

Mouth Healthy:

https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/m/meth-mouth

ADA:

https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Publications/Files/patient_55.ashx

Dimensions of Dental Hygiene Journal:

https://dimensionsofdentalhygiene.com/article/Caring-for-Patients-Who-Abuse-Methamphetamine/

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

 


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