It’s an unlikely scenario, but dentists are finding themselves on the front lines of the drug war as they encounter patients who show signs of meth abuse.
A patient with bad breath or a fear of Novocaine were the biggest worries dentists had in the past. These days they find themselves in the role of drug counselors for patients who have oral hygiene problems that point to a meth addiction.
A new study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse warns that severe oral health problems in otherwise young, healthy people should be seen as a possible sign of drug addiction, and dental professionals can be instrumental in spotting meth addiction in their patients long before signs would be evident to other healthcare professionals.
Stories about “meth mouth” are nothing new. The condition is which is marked by severe dental problems associated with methamphetamine abuse. But this latest study provides the first direct evidence of higher rates of oral disease among meth abusers. UCLA researchers and trained interviewers gathered medical, oral health and substance use data from more than 300 MA-dependent adults and compared it to control group data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Dental Disease Correlation
The study finds that dental disease is a distinct marker of methamphetamine abuse, with around two of five meth abusers having serious oral health problems, including more missing teeth. Oddly, those who inject the drug have higher rates of dental disease than those who smoke it. This isn’t because smoking meth is more “healthy,” but likely because IV drug users have a more severe addiction. The authors conclude that dentists can play a crucial role in the early detection of meth abuse and participate in the collaborative care of methamphetamine abusers.
Meth Addiction Treatment
If you or someone you love is battling a meth addiction, call The Oaks at La Paloma at our toll-free number. Someone is there to take your call 24 hours a day and answer any questions you have about treatment, financing or insurance.
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