- Published on Sunday, 07 October 2012 01:28
- Written by Super User
CARY, N.C. – The popular TV drama series “Breaking Bad” explores the evils of cooking and selling “meth” or methamphetamines in the western U.S. And while the shows detail the horrific outcomes associated with meth use, there’s one that’s missing: So-called “meth mouth.”
“There’s probably nothing more destructive to the human mouth than methamphetamine use,” says Dr. Bill Blaylock director of N.C. Missions of Mercy or NCMOM. “And we are seeing its terrible effects on teeth and oral tissue both in our practices and in outreach dental clinics throughout North Carolina.” Methamphetamine is a cheap, easy-to-make illicit drug. It’s known by several street names: Meth, Speed, Ice, Chalk, Crank, Fire, Glass, and Crystal. It is highly addictive and methamphetamine is a potent central nervous system stimulant that can cause shortness of breath, hyperthermia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heart beat, high blood pressure, permanent brain damage and rampant tooth decay.
“In the Dental Society’s NCMOM dental clinics in rural areas and some inner city locations, we are seeing a high incidence of methamphetamine-induced dental problems,” says Dr. Blaylock. “These patients who are meth users often have teeth that are blackened, stained, rotting, crumbling or falling apart. In many cases, the teeth cannot be salvaged and must be extracted.
"The extensive tooth decay is probably caused by a combination of drug-induced psychological and physiological changes resulting in dry mouth and long periods of poor oral hygiene. There also is the likelihood that the acidity of the drug damages teeth. The good news is that methamphetamine use appears to be declining nationwide. According to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, meth use dropped from an estimated 731,000 past month users in 2006 to 314,000 past month users in 2008. However meth is still a major health concern particularly in rural and even suburban areas where the drug is easily and inexpensively manufactured and easily distributed. “Our best advice to an individual tempted to experiment with meth is that they should avoid this destructive drug altogether. ” says Dr. Blaylock. “However, after the fact, the best we as medical professionals can do is encourage users to seek help with their addictions and try to address the all too common dental and medical issues that accompany meth use. The N.C. Dental Society represents more than 3,600 dentists throughout North Carolina. The NCDS encourages improvement of the oral health of the public, promotes the art and science of dentistry, sustains high standards of professional competence and practice, and represents the interests of the members of the dental profession and the public which it serves.