Jails and prisons are racking up big dentistry bills because of an influx of methamphetamine users, the Raleigh-Durham News and Observer reported April 18.
Meth use dries up saliva, leading to rapid tooth and gum decay among users. Many of these “meth mouth” sufferers end up in prison, where the government is obliged by law to provide dental care.
“It's a bombed-out mouth,” said North Carolina prison dentist Norman Grantham. “You look inside, and all you see are stubs and spaces.” State prison officials worry that the side-effects of meth use will make them blow their dental budget; the Sampson County Sheriff's office already is $15,000 over its dental budget this year. In Watauga County, dental visits due to meth use doubled last year.
Beyond dry mouth, meth use also promotes tooth decay by making users crave sugary, caffeinated soda and causing them to forget to brush their teeth or floss. Moreover, many meth users grind or gnash their teeth, and meth ingredients slow the flow of blood to the mouth.
Just a year or two of meth use can destroy the user's teeth, experts say.