The Meth Mouth
Dentists untrained for the meth mouth
From the moment when the young man sat down in the dental chair
in southwestern Kansas and opened his mouth, Dr. Richard Stein
says he recognized the enemy.
This had to be the work, Stein concluded, of methamphetamine, a
drug that is leaving its mark, especially in the rural regions of the
Midwest and the South, on families, crime rates, economies,
legislatures — and teeth.
Unlike other drugs or vices in most dentists' memories,
methamphetamine seems to be taking a unique and horrific toll
inside its users' mouths. In short stretches of time, sometimes just
months, a perfectly healthy set of teeth can turn grayish-brown, twist
and begin to fall out, and take on a texture less like that of hard
enamel and more like a piece of ripened fruit
The condition, known to some as "meth mouth," has been studied
little in academic circles and is unknown to many urban and
suburban dentists, whose patients increasingly are focused on
cosmetic issues, the bleaching and perfect veneers of television's
makeover shows. But other dentists, especially those in the open,
empty swaths of land where methamphetamine is being
manufactured in homemade laboratories, say they are seeing a
growing number of such cases.
These are the same towns, in some cases, that have wrestled in
recent years with shortages of dentists. For good or ill, meth mouth
is creating more business.
"The truth is, very little is known yet," said Dr. Stephen Wagner, who
specializes in dentures and implants in his private practice and who
will be studying 20 afflicted patients in the coming months at the
University of New Mexico. "What I can tell you is what I have seen: It
looks like someone has taken a hammer to these teeth and
Source Lexington Herald-Leader