“Meth mouth” is a troubling and stigmatizing way of describing the dental problems that the public and media associate with methamphetamine use. However, there is no clear evidence that the use of methamphetamine directly causes tooth decay and dental problems.
Instead, there is consensus that smoking substances, including methamphetamine, can lead to harmful damage to teeth and enamel, especially if individuals are not regularly brushing and flossing, rinsing their mouths after eating sugary foods, and staying hydrated to make sure they have enough saliva in their mouth. This is true for some people who smoke methamphetamine, but it is true for people who smoke cigarettes and other tobacco products as well.
We know that some people who use methamphetamine are low income and may lack access to dental hygiene supplies and regular dental care, which can then result in severe dental problems. We also know that for some people, methamphetamine use can contribute to teeth grinding as well.
For those who use methamphetamine overnight or over the course of several days, it can mean that they lose track of time and may forget to brush their teeth. A good harm reduction strategy for people who use drugs in this manner is to set alarms to remember to hydrate frequently and to brush their teeth twice a day.
Methamphetamine use is highly stigmatized, and its physical manifestations can leave people who use methamphetamine feeling isolated or ashamed. People who use methamphetamine often have many unmet medical and mental health needs. Dental treatment plans can include extraction, tooth restoration, prosthetics, and home care regimens.
However, it is important to note that because methamphetamine use can occur at the intersection of, or result in, poverty and social marginalization, some may not be able to seek or afford dental treatment.