Most people, when asked which feature they find most attractive in others, will tell you that it is a beautiful smile. There is nothing better than having a stranger flash their pearly whites at you. It makes your body and brain react in a very positive way. Smiling enhances your mood and can boost the mood of other when you share yours with them. A charming smile can make a heart melt for anyone.
Now, let’s talk about “meth mouth.” There is absolutely nothing charming about the toothy (or lack thereof) grin of someone who has abused methamphetamines. The damage that meth has on your oral health, and more specifically your teeth, is a astronomical. And the damage doesn’t take long. A person who uses methamphetamines often can go from looking healthy and sporting a dazzling smile to having a gaunt-skeleton look that is missing or has decaying teeth.
For those people who have experienced the horrible disease of addiction because for that brief moment a drug made you feel, invincible, happy, euphoric, braver, smarter, and vastly sexier, you know that the road to recovery is bumpy and quite possibly the hardest one to travel.
Kicking any addiction takes an incredible amount of commitment and strength. Some can end their addiction just by sheer willpower, but most need help from professionals. Rehab centers around the world are staffed with knowledgeable counselors that are trained to help. Often centers will staff people who have gone through addiction themselves. Knowing what it’s like to feel the power that any drug has over your life and body is something that many of them can relate to and offer advice from their own experiences.
If you are among those who have banished the beast of burden that is methamphetamine addiction and are looking for that final step: getting back your smile. We are here to help.
Meth Mouth Basics
Methamphetamines damage the salivary glands in the mouth, which reduces the output of saliva. What is known as “dry mouth” occurs when saliva is not being produced, this is called xerostomia. Saliva is essential to stopping harmful bacteria from damaging teeth. This bacteria, in methamphetamine users, can increase as much as 10 times above average. Bacteria can also increase due to the lack of oral hygiene that is common among meth users.
The use of meth can also cause bruxism, which is the clenching and grinding of teeth. This can play a large part in tooth decay. In severe cases this can lead to cracks. These cracks act as a gateway to the interior of the tooth, speeding up the decaying process.
Acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG) is a serious form of gum inflammation. This infection causes gum tissue to die, which in turn causes rampant cavity formation. Infections within the body can also become an issue from ANUG, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
The only time dental treatment will truly be effective is when the use of methamphetamines stop completely. Those with little decay-related damages can usually be treated to restore the tooth by filling cavities. Those who experience severe damage may require more advanced treatment, such as a root canal, a procedure that removes the damaged nerves and tissue within the tooth.
Recovering addicts who have damaged their salivary glands usually have to find a way to artificially increase moisture in their mouths. Medication, such as pilocarpine or cevimeline may provide a solution to this specific problem.
When there is advanced and profound tooth loss and destruction, these severe cases will typically require complete tooth removal, which will be replaced with either dentures or dental implants. For those who have abused methamphetamines for a long time, extraction of all teeth is most likely going to be the answer.
Addiction is a hard thing to overcome, but for those of you who have and are looking to start your life over, we can help. Our office understands the needs of someone who is a recovering addict and we know how much a great smile means to each of our patients. With improved dental hygiene, improved overall health, and improved eating habits, you’ll be on the right path to having a new life and a new smile.