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Campaign Aims to Alert Dentists to “Meth Mouth”

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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.

3 Responses to this article

  1. Joe Miller / May 10, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    I see a whole lot more young people being falsely accused of meth use by their dentists because of these kinds of scare tactics and that my friends is quite unfortunate.

  2. Zac Talbott, BA, CMA / May 6, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    While I applaud any efforts to help curtail and prevent substance use, especially among children and teenagers, the evidence base is fairly clear that “startling” or otherwise graphic images do little to nothing to aid in prevention efforts or to encourage folks currently dealing with substance use disorders to seek treatment.

    It never ceases to amaze me that we have such a large, expansive and oft comprehensive evidence base of research and studies to consult yet so many “strategies” are dreamed up by folks, or even otherwise credible organizations, that clearly haven’t begun their efforts by consulting the available information. How many funds have been diverted away from evidence based, proven effective medical treatments, interventions or strategies towards things that existing information already makes fairly clear is unlikely to make any significant difference?

  3. Avatar of Patti
    Patti / May 8, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Thank you, Zac Talbott, for your wise comment. I certainly wouldn’t disagree with providing education to Dentists on the signs of meth use, but disagree with the use of scare tactics in preventing youth ATOD use. The MOST of us campaign/Science of the Positive is a much more effective approach.

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