Methamphetamine, also known as Ice, is a highly addictive synthetic stimulant that can be smoked, snorted, or injected. In addition to the devastating consequences of meth addiction, a condition known as “meth mouth” is a particularly dramatic one. Someone new to using meth may wonder, “Why do my teeth after smoking ice?” This is one of the telltale precursors for the severe dental damage that can occur with continued use of this dangerous drug. Meth mouth often is so advanced that the teeth cannot be salvaged. Getting help for a crystal meth addiction is critical in order to avoid the devastating effects to one’s teeth.
What Causes Meth Mouth?
Why do my teeth hurt after smoking ice? This question belies the lack of information available about the many dangers of crystal meth, or ice. If the individual is asking the question, he or she is likely unaware of the disastrous effects of ice on dental health.
Meth mouth results from a number of co-occurring effects caused by using ice. These include:
- Dry mouth. Crystal meth inhibits the saliva secretion that is needed to protect teeth. The extremely dry mouth caused by using meth is triggered by the narrowing of blood vessels in salivary glands, decreasing the amount of saliva produced. The lack of saliva can lead to damage to the teeth and gums.
- Ignoring dental hygiene. Meth addicts may cease to take care of their teeth. They stop regular dental hygiene habits, teeth cleanings and exams, and ignore cavities. This allows for continuing decay to rot the surface enamel away, leading to the eventual destruction of the tooth.
- Drinking sugary beverages. The excessive dry mouth can influence the meth user to address their thirst, but the individual will likely crave sweet, sugary, carbonated beverages. These wreak havoc on the teeth that are already vulnerable due to a lack of saliva and regular dental hygiene.
- Ice is acidic. The drug itself is said to have an acidic properties. The chemicals found in the meth cause the acidity, which include anhydrous ammonia, lithium, and red phosphorus. This often explains why someone may ask, “Why do my teeth hurt after smoking ice?”
Symptoms of Meth Mouth
The level of dental damage will depend upon the severity of the methamphetamine addiction. Occasional users will likely not suffer from this problem, at least not to the extent that a heavy ice user will. A study out of the University of California, Los Angeles in 2015 found that, when examining the dental condition of 571 meth users, 96% had cavities, 58% had untreated tooth decay, and 31% had six or more missing teeth. In addition, 40% of the meth users reported feeling self-conscious about the state of their teeth. Generally, women meth users have higher rates of cavities and tooth loss than males.
Signs and symptoms of meth mouth may include:
- Red and inflamed gum tissue
- Poor overall dental hygiene
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Dry mouth and tongue
- Broken, crumbling, or fractured teeth
Unfortunately, by the time someone with meth mouth seeks help for pain from a dentist the damage to the teeth is so severe that it is difficult to save the teeth. This is the result of neglecting dental health and hygiene for long periods, while simultaneously consuming sugary drinks and snacks in abundance. In the event of severe tooth decay, full-mouth extractions are performed and the individual will be fitted with dentures.
About Methamphetamine Addiction
Crystal meth, or ice, is the most widely used synthetic drug in the world, and is almost immediately addicting. Initially, the drug offers sensations of euphoria, alertness, energy, and a sense of wellbeing, with a high that can last up to 12 hours. While meth use soared in the 1990s, as home-based meth labs proliferated, stricter control of the cough medications used to concoct meth dramatically reduced production for many years.
However, Mexico has become the current source for the drug, with superlabs operated by drug cartels churning it out in abundance. This has lead to a sharp increase in meth use in the past couple of years. According to the U.S. Border Patrol, meth seizures have increased tenfold since 2010.
Some of the side effects from using meth include:
- Shortness of breath
- Hyperactivity, mania
- Decreased appetite and weight loss
With extended use, methamphetamine abuse can have devastating health effects, including:
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Kidney damage
- Lung disorders
- Brain damage
- Delusional behavior
- Cognitive decline
- Aggressive or violent behavior
- Severe tooth decay and tooth loss
Getting Help for Meth Addiction
Although challenging, it is possible to recovery from a meth addiction. To do so requires a commitment to making fundamental shifts in behaviors and lifestyle that will encompass the full continuum of care.
Detox and withdrawal: The individual will undergo the process through which the body eliminates the residual toxins and chemicals from the drug while the brain attempts to stabilized. Detox and withdrawal lasts anywhere from one to two weeks, depending on the severity of the addiction. This is determined by the length of time meth was used, how much meth was usually consumed, the method used for the meth delivery, and whether there is a coexisting mental health condition.
During the meth detox the individual will experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. A medical detox team will provide medications and other interventions that help ease the discomforts, to some degree, helping the client endure the process and complete the detoxification. Meth detox often involves psychological withdrawal symptoms to further complicate the process, so the support of the detox professionals is key to guiding the person through to completion.
Methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms include:
- Joint pain
- Clammy skin
- Irregular heartbeat
- Mood swings
- Eye discomfort
- Decreased appetite
- Sleep disruptions
- Extreme fatigue
- Poor concentration
- Memory problems
- Increased appetite
- Suicidal thoughts
The withdrawal symptoms tend to peak over the first two days of detox, “the crash,” before beginning to subside. However, some of the psychological withdrawal effects may linger for weeks or months after the drug has cleared the system.
Meth Addiction Recovery: Treatment will rely on various evidence-based treatment modalities, creating a comprehensive approach to recovery. These treatment elements include the following:
- Psychotherapy. The most effective type of therapy for treating methamphetamine addiction will involve behavioral therapies. Some of these include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a very useful treatment method that helps clients to examine their self-messaging and how they respond to triggers. The therapist guides them to reframe their irrational, negative self-talk and the way they respond when triggers to use meth occur.
- Motivational enhancement therapy (MET). MET is a short-term therapy that guides individuals to overcome their ambivalence about quitting the drug and to embrace sobriety. The goal is for clients to motivate themselves from within to accept the need for treatment and to become a stakeholder in their recovery.
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). DBT is a four-part therapy based on mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.
A comprehensive rehab program will include both individual and group therapy sessions. Individual therapy provides an opportunity to forge a trust bond between client and therapist, allowing a safe, supportive space for exploring underlying emotional issues. Group therapy encourages discussion among participants, allowing for the sharing of experiences, challenges, and fears regarding recovery, as well as family therapy.
- Addiction education. Classes that help clients understand the impact of methamphetamine on brain functioning and how it alters brain structures is beneficial for recovering addicts. In addition, recovery skills are taught that become indispensible tools for the individual in recovery. These include stress regulation, conflict resolution, improved communication skills, and emotion regulation techniques. Relapse prevention is planned by carefully identifying the potential triggers to use meth, and then strategizing about ways to manage the triggers and avoid relapse.
- 12-step program or SMART Recovery. Additional support is provided through recovery support communities, such as Alcoholics Anonymous programs, A.A. or N.A., or a non 12-step program such as SMART Recovery. These recovery communities offer the valuable peer support piece so essential in attaining a sustainable recovery. Many rehabs include 12-step meetings and programming into the treatment program, and then encourage clients to continue accessing this important source of support following completion of the program.
- Experiential activities. Addiction recovery is continuing to evolve. One of the areas that has caught traction in recent years is the usefulness of holistic or experiential activities as complimentary treatment elements. Mostly, this is due to the stress-reduction aspects of many of the activities. Clients can later incorporate the techniques into their aftercare planning to help manage stress, the most common trigger for relapse. Holistic activities include yoga, mindfulness meditation, massage therapy, acupuncture, aromatherapy, hypnotherapy, and regular exercise.
- Aftercare. After completion of the rehab program, there are some protective measures the newly sober individual can take to protect sobriety. These services might include sober living housing, continued outpatient therapy sessions and classes, and participating in a local recovery community.
Methamphetamine addiction is treatable. When an individual is ready to seek professional help for a meth addiction, and is willing to do the work in recovery, there is ample hope that they will achieve a fulfilling life.
Ken Seeley Communities Provides Comprehensive Treatment for Meth Addiction
Ken Seeley Communities is a full-spectrum addiction recovery program located in Palm Springs, California. Offering the complete continuum of care, including interventionist services, medically-supervised detoxification, outpatient rehab, residential rehab, and sober living housing, Ken Seeley Communities is dedicated to helping individuals overcome a crystal meth addiction. To learn more about why do my teeth hurt after smoking ice, and treatment options for meth addiction, please contact Ken Seeley Communities today at (877) 744-0502.