Saturday, February 05, 2005

Meth Addiction Leading to Rotting Teeth

Methamphetamine addiction is a dental tragedy:

The growing use of highly addictive methamphetamine throughout the country is creating a prominent scar on an increasing number of users - rotting, brittle teeth that seem to crumble from their mouths.

Methamphetamine can be made with a horrid mix of substances, including over-the-counter cold medicine, fertilizer, battery acid and hydrogen peroxide. Together, the chemicals reduce a user's saliva, which neutralizes acids and physically clears food from the teeth, said Dr. Eric Curtis, an Arizona-based spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry.

"When the saliva isn't flowing, the bacteria build up a lot faster," said Dr. Darrell Morton, an Atlanta dentist.

Jeffery Lotshaw flossed regularly. He brushed faithfully, sometimes four or five times in a day.

All that care makes his condition seem incomprehensible - at the age of just 33, Lotshaw's grin is toothless. His teeth all broke apart, tarnished with yellow and black.

"Before I started doing meth, I didn't have a cavity in my head," said Lotshaw, imprisoned on drug charges at Missouri's Maryville Treatment Center.

Meth users also may neglect their teeth, or moisten their dry mouths with high-sugar drinks, and anxiety caused by the drug prompts them to grind their teeth, which speeds decay.

The problem is particularly noticeable among inmates, whose oral problems have some prison systems struggling to provide dental care.

"They're rotting teeth, missing teeth, rotting way into the gums," said Kathy Bachmeier, the head of medical services for North Dakota's prisons. "It's ugly."

Read the rest here.

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