Dentists can be an important tool in the fight against methamphetamine addiction, according to an official at Tufts School of Dental Medicine in Massachusetts. Jennifer Towers, the school’s director of research affairs, has designed a campaign to alert dentists to the signs of “meth mouth.”
Meth use can cause intense teeth gnashing that leads to cracked enamel and advanced tooth decay. The drug also causes sugar cravings, which leads people to drink large quantities of sugar-laden soda or sports drinks. “Meth mouth really dovetails well with drug prevention efforts because it’s so startling,” Towers told The Boston Globe.
By the time a person stops using meth, often the only option to treat meth mouth is pulling teeth, according to Tufts Dental Medicine.
Towers created a screensavers of meth mouth images, which dentists can play in their exam room. The campaign also includes a graphic novel for preteens, and software that shows how a mouth deteriorates over time, to simulate the effects of using meth. Her goal is to scare teens into staying away from meth. “I got a group of 14-year-old girls to be very silent when I showed them the before and after pictures [of meth addicts]. Especially in mid-teen range, they’re pretty concerned about their appearance,” she said.
She tested her campaign in Idaho, where meth use is high in rural areas. Tufts Dental Medicine notes about 80 percent of children in Idaho’s foster-care system are there because of their parents’ meth use, and more than half of the inmates in the state’s prison system are there on meth-related charges. Almost three-quarters of women in Idaho’s jails are addicted to meth.