Illegal Drugs and Your Mouth

Meth Mouth

You may have read or heard in the media about a condition called “Meth Mouth”, caused by an illegal drug named methamphetamine. Methamphetamine and other illegal drugs can take a horrible toll on your teeth, gums and other oral tissue. While it hasn’t been proven that “Meth Mouth” is a condition unique to methamphetamine, the symptoms are clear:

  • blackening of the teeth
  • rotting, crumbling teeth
  • receding gums

In most cases, the damage is irreversible and the teeth must be extracted.

The damage known as Meth Mouth is thought to be caused by:

  • methamphetamine’s acidic nature
  • reduced saliva and dry mouth caused by the drug
  • drug-induced cravings for high calorie carbonated beverages
  • the tendency for users to grind and clench their teeth
  • the drug’s long duration effects, lasting 12 hours or more, which lead to long-term poor dental hygiene


Methamphetamine use is on the rise, due to the drug being highly addictive and relatively cheap and easy to make. It’s also known as meth, speed, ice, chalk, crank, fire, glass, crystal, and Tina. It can be made it forms that can be swallowed, injected, inhaled through the nose or smoked. It causes high levels of neurotransmitters that lead to euphoria and high energy levels, but it has a number of devastating side effects:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased respiration
  • Hyperthermia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Irregular heart beat
  • High blood pressure
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions
  • Anxiety

You should be concerned if you notice a family member of friend showing symptoms of methamphetamine use. Look for unaccounted for and accelerated tooth decay or the appearance of being malnourished. If you think a friend or family member may be using methamphetamine or another drug, you can contact the Substance Abuse and mental Health Services Administration for information including local substance-abuse treatment facilities, physicians, guides for parents, and other resources. They have a toll-free helpline at 800-662-HELP.