Methamphetamine abuse and oral health: a pilot study of "meth mouth"

Quintessence Int. 2012 Mar;43(3):229-37.


Abuse of methamphetamine (meth), a potent central nervous system stimulant, has been associated with significant dental disease. Current descriptions of "meth mouth" are limited in their scope and fail to illuminate the potential pathogenic mechanisms of meth for oral disease. The purpose of this pilot study was to characterize the oral health of subjects with a history of meth abuse as compared to nonabusing control subjects. A total of 28 meth abusers and 16 control subjects were enrolled. Interviews and surveys regarding meth abuse, dental history, oral hygiene, and diet were collected. A comprehensive oral cavity examination including salivary characterization was completed. We observed significantly higher rates of decayed surfaces, missing teeth, tooth wear, plaque, and calculus among meth abusers. No significant difference in salivary flow rates were noted, yet results showed significant trends for lower pH and decreased buffering capacity. These findings suggest that salivary quality may play a more important role in meth mouth than previously considered. Salivary analysis may be useful when managing a dental patient with history of methamphetamine abuse.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Buffers
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / adverse effects*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / complications
  • Dental Calculus / etiology
  • Dental Care
  • Dental Caries / etiology
  • Dental Plaque / etiology
  • Educational Status
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Gingival Diseases / etiology
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / complications
  • Methamphetamine / adverse effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Diseases / etiology*
  • Oral Hygiene
  • Pilot Projects
  • Saliva / drug effects
  • Saliva / metabolism
  • Secretory Rate / drug effects
  • Tooth Diseases / etiology*
  • Tooth Loss / etiology
  • Tooth Wear / etiology
  • Young Adult


  • Buffers
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Methamphetamine