The San Quentin News “Health and Wellness Corner” column runs every month. A University of California, San Francisco, health professional student will answer questions that you submit about health issues. Inquiries will be answered in the next month’s paper. Feel free to ask us questions about any medical concern that you have, and it may be answered so that everyone can benefit. If you have a question, put it in a U-Save-Em envelope addressed to:
Health and Wellness Corner, UCSF Doctors (Dr. Shira Shavit) – Medical Box. If you include your name and number, they will be kept confidential. Note that this column is for general medical questions.
This edition, we will address the following question:
Meth and My Teeth
Methamphetamine (meth) is an addictive drug, also known as “speed” and “ice”. It is among the most abused drugs in the world. Meth excites the brain and even small amounts can cause:
Euphoria (pronounced you-FOR-ee-yah, a feeling of pleasure)
Hyperactivity (too much energy)
Increased sexual pleasure
However, Meth has dangerous side effects:
Dental problems are one of the most dangerous side effects of using meth. “Meth mouth” is a term used by dentists to describe tooth damage in meth users. A dentist knows that a patient has meth mouth when he has serious and sudden tooth breakdown.
Bacteria in our mouths break down the sugar we eat and release their waste into our mouths. Meth users tend to crave sugar more than someone who doesn’t use meth. Normally, saliva (spit) protects teeth by washing away the waste that bacteria leave when they feed on sugar. Meth lowers the amount of saliva that the body makes (causing dry mouth). Without enough saliva protection, waste from bacteria stays in the mouth and eats away the teeth, causing cavities.
Teeth of meth users also get worn down quickly because meth users tend to clench and grind their teeth when they are high. Also, meth users tend to have poor oral hygiene (i.e. they don’t brush or floss their teeth as much as they should).
Eating and drinking sugary foods + Less saliva
+ Grinding teeth+ Poor oral hygiene
Before seeing the dentist, meth users should drink enough water and eat less sweet food or drinks such as candy and soda. Make sure to brush teeth at least twice a day or brush after meals if food is sweet or sticky.
Drinking enough water + Eating less sugar
+ Brushing and flossing teeth
Decrease tooth breakdown