It is interesting to note just how many people associate the symptoms of “meth mouth” with the use of Methamphetamines alone. Rather than being a classic indicator of frequent abuse of this drug, it is actually an associated symptom of the side effects or impact of the drug on the human body and psyche. It isn’t just Meth users who show up with “meth mouth,” and the issue had presented itself long before Meth was a widely used drug.
The condition is usually characterized by such symptoms as “rampant” tooth decay, broken teeth, bad breath, tooth abscesses, and ANUG (Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis). These issues appear when someone abuses drugs, but can also manifest due to poor diet, high stress levels, and a lack of oral hygiene.
The primary reason that this list of symptoms and conditions ended up with the nickname of meth mouth was due to an increase in serious tooth decay in the prison population beginning around 2004. Widespread budgetary reviews indicated an enormous amount of money was being directed towards hospital care or in-house treatments for prisoners with serious dental issues.
This led to a deeper review of the national problem, and the connection to a high incidence of ANUG with violent drug abusers was identified. What the authorities realized was that Methamphetamines created a different set of behavioral characteristics from other categories of drugs. While someone on heroine or crack might experience temporary relief of the pain of their dental conditions when using the drugs, it seemed that only the Meth users were able to “forget” all of their health conditions that their dental problems had caused.
Instead of becoming lethargic due to the discomfort and challenges of living on a poor diet and failing to care for their decaying teeth and gums, the Meth users were prone to violence and crime.
The name meth mouth has since been mistaken as a classic indicator of Meth abuse, but it is actually just a side effect of the lifestyle into which a Meth user descends. For example, most serious abusers will end up existing on a diet of sugar foods alone. This leads at a huge amount of plaque and rapid decay. They also stop caring for their bodies and teeth, which facilitates the decay, and this is usually partnered with a decrease in immune function thanks to the diet and to the general lack of sleep that a Meth user suffers.
Meth mouth is now a well-known phenomenon, but it does appear in drug abusers of all kinds.