Updated on February 6, 2024
3 min read

How Meth Damages Teeth

Key Takeaways

Why Does Meth Rot Teeth?

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), meth mouth refers to severe caries associated with use of methamphetamine. Meth mouth is also called “crank decay” and can resemble early childhood caries.1

Not only is the drug bad for oral health, but its use also leads to users neglecting their hygiene, which exacerbates dental problems. 

Methamphetamine causes extensive tooth decay by damaging the tooth enamel. The drug decreases saliva production, which leads to dry mouth and an increased risk of cavities. Its use also causes other oral health problems, such as gum disease and mouth sores.


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What are the Early Signs of Meth Mouth?

Tooth decay is one of the first signs of meth mouth. 

Most meth users develop stained teeth and mild to moderate dental health problems shortly after they begin using.

Other early signs of meth mouth include: 

  • Cavities
  • Bad breath
  • Missing teeth
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding)
  • Gum disease

General signs of meth use include:

  • Weight loss
  • Skin sores
  • Changes in mood and behavior
  • Insomnia
  • Isolation

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Other Health Risks of Meth

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that causes serious, negative health consequences.

Oral health risks of meth include:

  • Dental caries/cavities
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth enamel damage
  • Dry mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Mouth sores

Short-term effects of meth use include increased alertness, decreased appetite, and increased energy levels. Long-term effects of meth use include addiction, brain damage, and mental health problems.

Other health risks of meth include:

  • Infection
  • Itching
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Infections
  • Cardiovascular problems, included increased heart rate and/or blood pressure and stroke
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • HIV
  • Hepatitis
  • Weight loss

Methamphetamine use increases the risk of serious drug-induced, psychological side effects. People using meth are prone to:

  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Aggressive and/or violent behavior
  • Psychosis

Additionally, poor oral hygiene and dental problems like tooth decay and gum issues increase a person’s risk for other health issues. These include cardiovascular issues. 

Nutritional Effects of Meth 

Meth can increase cravings for foods that are bad for dental health, including sugary treats. 

In general, meth users tend to make poor dietary choices. This increases their risk of developing cavities and other dental hygiene problems. Such diets lack proper nutrition, including vitamin C, calcium, and iron, to support good dental health. 

Lack of nutrition also slows healing. Mouth sores and lesions, which are common in meth users, usually take longer to heal.

Meth also increases the likelihood to grind or clench teeth. This is due to nervousness and anxiety that often accompany meth use. These practices wear down already sensitive teeth.

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Treatment for Meth Mouth 

Meth mouth cannot be reversed. But there are some ways to prevent it from worsening:

  • Stop using meth
  • Establish good oral hygiene habits
  • Remove/extract any severely damaged teeth
  • Undergo necessary dental treatments, including filling cavities and treating gum disease

Treatment for Meth Addiction

Recovery from methamphetamine addiction is difficult. There are many different types of addiction treatments available. The best approach varies by person. 

Tapering meth use is one of the most effective options. Medical detox is also beneficial. Both inpatient and outpatient meth abuse treatment programs are available. 

Inpatient treatment centers offer a variety of services such as: 

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family support
  • Medical detoxification
  • Access to 12-step programs

These services help someone recover physically, mentally, and emotionally from addiction. 

Aftercare is also an important part of treatment. Relapse prevention programs help people stay sober after initial treatment. 

Some people also benefit from medication during meth withdrawal and recovery. There are no medications specific for meth treatment, but several pharmaceutical options are available for easing withdrawal symptoms. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with meth addiction, help is available. Contact a professional treatment center to learn about treatment for substance abuse.

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Updated on February 6, 2024
7 sources cited
Updated on February 6, 2024
  1. Methamphetamine.” American Dental Association. 2022.

  2. Stanciu, Cornel N., et al. “Meth Mouth.” Journal of Addiction Medicine, vol. 11, no. 4, 2017.

  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What Are the Long-Term Effects of Methamphetamine Misuse?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, Oct. 2019. 

  4. Meth Mouth Menace.” Jacqueline Mitchell. Tufts Now. 18 Apr. 2014.

  5. Curtis, Eric K. “Meth Mouth: A Review of Methamphetamine Abuse and Its Oral Manifestations.” General Dentistry, vol. 54, no. 2, 2006, pp. 125–129; quiz 130. 

  6. Know the Risks of Meth.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 13 Apr. 2022.

  7. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Methamphetamine DrugFacts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 16 May 2019.

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