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Friday, October 24, 2014-3:17:09A.M.

Last updateFri, 24 Oct 2014 12am

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5 reasons not to ‘meth with your mouth’

THOUGH we focus on promoting good oral health here at the SDA Dental Clinic, it is impossible to overlook the growing problem of methamphetamine (ice, speed, crystal, glass) use in the CNMI.  Just in case the insanely high addiction rate, the 5 percent recovery rate, or 5-7 year life expectancy of addicts isn’t enough to keep folks from “just trying” ice, we have put together a list of 5 ways meth use messes with your mouth:

1) Zombie Mouth: Meth use causes your mouth to dry out like a zombie with a mouth full of dirt.  Dentists would call this problem “Xerostomia,” but let’s just say it’s dry in there.  The combination of a dry mouth and a meth-compromised immune system causes oral wounds, cracked and bleeding mouth corners, inflamed mouth ulcers, and oral yeast infections.  Better hold your arms out straight if you are walking around with a mouth like that!

2) Rotten Chompers: Your teeth, on meth, will decay from the inside out, due to the shrinking of blood vessels and the resulting reduced blood supply to the teeth.  Think you can just get a filling?  Think again.  The rot will reoccur under the fillings, and since the vessels won’t recover, get ready to borrow grandma’s dentures, because you’ll be needing them long before your time.  Many patients end up with FULL MOUTH dentures as a result of meth use.

3) You’ll Become a Big Baby: Before you get those dentures, you’ll be borrowing your baby nephew’s pacifier.  Why?  You’ll be grinding and clenching your jaw because of blood vessels shrinking in your tempromandibular joint.  Patients have been known to chew straight through mouth guards and cracked teeth are the result.  Sometimes sucking on an infant’s pacifier is the best way to ease the incessant grinding.

4) The Dentist Won’t See You Now: But only because you won’t go to the dentist in the first place.  Meth users rarely seek dental treatment until years go by and things get really bad in there. By the time you come in to see us for help (and of course the dentist will see you then!), you’ll have all of those nasty diseases you hear about on the Listerine commercials like gingivitis and a bacterial infection that causes bone loss called periodontitis.

5) Meth Breath: How do you think all of the above will make your breath smell?  We call it halitosis.  Your friends will call it, “Stay away, meth breath!”  Sound funny?  It isn’t.  The lack of saliva in meth users means teeth are exposed to the mouth’s harsh acids, causing cavities and a host of other problems that mean bad breath for you.  Not to mention that “tweakers” pay more attention to eating sugary foods and drinks than brushing and flossing.

Meth use isn’t a joking matter.  Meth destroys not only mouths, but lives.  Hopefully, learning about these side effects of meth use will help prevent even just a few of our community members from trying it and starting down the road that, in the majority of cases, leads to serious health and psychiatric conditions.  If you are a user, please know that you are not alone and that there is help available for you, not only at our clinic, but at places like Saipan’s Community Guidance Center which offers substance abuse counseling.

October is National Dental Hygiene Month. Beverly Moretti is a registered dental hygienist at the SDA Dental Clinic.