What is meth mouth?

meth mouthCourtesy of the American Dental Association

You have probably heard that “meth mouth” is caused by using methamphetamine (meth), a very addictive drug. Methamphetamine is a stimulant, which means it can boost mood, increase energy, and make you feel extra alert. However, it has serious and dangerous effects—like raising your heart rate and blood pressure—and using it can lead to addiction. It can also ruin your teeth.

Several things can lead to mouth problems in people who use methamphetamine. While using, people often crave sugary drinks like soda and also go for long periods of time without taking care of their teeth; this combination can lead to severe tooth decay. Unfortunately, many people who struggle with addiction do not take care of their mouth. Common effects on the mouth from methamphetamine use include:    

  • brown or blackened, stained teeth
  • tooth decay
  • bad breath
  • loose teeth that may need to be removed
  • gum disease
  • dry mouth
  • jaw muscle and joint pain

These effects can become so bad that the damaged teeth cannot be treated, and they must be removed.

A NIDA-funded study of more than 500 people who repeatedly used methamphetamine found 96 percent had experienced dental cavities and 58 percent had untreated tooth decay. Only 23 percent retained all of their natural teeth, compared to a tooth retention rate of 48 percent among the U.S. general population. The study found that the more methamphetamine a person used, the more likely they were to have untreated tooth decay.4

Learn more about methamphetamine and its effects.

4 National Institute on Drug Abuse. 2015. High Rates of Dental Gum Disease Occur Among Methamphetamine Users. Available at https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2015/11/high-rates-dental-gum-disease-occur-among-methamphetamine-users.