Meth Mouth: Some Ugly Numbers

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.
A drawing of tooth decay and the words "meth mouth"

We’ve described before how using meth can have a lot of really unpleasant effects on the body. One of those effects is “meth mouth,” where a meth user’s teeth become broken, stained, and rotten, and may eventually fall out. If it sounds ugly, just wait until you see some pictures of meth mouth (if you dare—they’re pretty hard to look at).

Well, the news about meth mouth got even worse recently: Turns out it happens to meth users a lot more often than was previously known.

Researchers examined 571 meth users and found that:

  • 96 percent of them had cavities (a cavity is a hole or other damage to the outside layers of a tooth—but you probably knew that).
  • Adults who said they used meth “moderately” or “heavily” were twice as likely to have untreated cavities as “light” users—“light” users had used the drug for less than 10 days over the previous month. (If a cavity goes untreated, it grows larger and larger, it can cause a really bad toothache, the cavity can become infected, and the tooth may have to be removed.)
  • 58 percent of the meth users had untreated tooth decay, compared with 27 percent of the general population in the U.S.
  • Only 23 percent kept all of their natural teeth, compared to 48 percent of the general population in the U.S. That’s a lot of additional tooth loss for the people who used meth.
  • A significant number of meth users (40 percent) said they were often self-conscious or embarrassed because of the condition of their teeth or dentures.

So it looks like the question with meth mouth isn’t really if it will happen to a person who uses meth. The question is more like, how bad will their meth mouth get?

Learn the other things meth can do to your body and brain.

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

Related Articles

Say What? “Relapse”
July 2018

A person who's trying to stop using drugs can sometimes start using them again. Fortunately, treatment can help to lower...