Tuesday, June 14, 2005
I first read this headline and thought, that perhaps they should stop smoking menthol cigarettes: "More Inmates Suffering From 'Meth Mouth'" Reading on, I learn that it is the hapless souls who have become addicted to crank that are actually having the issue. Different kind of drug delivery entirely.
- FARMINGTON, Utah - Increasing numbers of inmates are arriving at prisons and jails with rotted teeth. It's called "meth mouth" - a condition rampant among methamphetamine users - and its taxing corrections officials' dental budgets.
Contract dentists are having to put in more time to keep up with the demand for dental visits. Some jails have a two-month waiting list.
In Salt Lake County, dental costs for jail inmates increased 30 percent between 2003 and 2004, said Jared Davis in the county's finance office.
Dental costs for county inmates: $44,756 in 2003; $58,193 in 2004.
The county does try to charge inmates a co-payment for the dental. Inmates paid nearly 12,000 of the $58,193 dental costs in 2004.
- Much of the dental work is extraction.
"There are 28 teeth," said Dr. Richard Johnson, a dentist who works regularly at the Utah State Prison and the Utah County Jail. "There are 26 of them that need to be extracted sometimes, and sometimes you just have to dig 'em out."[sic. OUCH!]
A few weeks ago, Johnson pulled seven soft, black teeth out of an inmate's mouth. A week later, he pulled out four more of the patient's teeth.
Dentists in private practice and public health clinics also see young meth users who have to wear dentures.
"They look like someone shot a gun through their mouths," said Dr. Richard G. Ellis, who volunteers at Salt Lake Donated Dental Services. "It just destroys them."
- Opinions differ as to what causes meth mouth.
Some dentists believe the acid in the drug eats away the teeth. Others say it's meth addicts' huge consumption of sugar-laden soda to alleviate dry mouth.
The pseudoephedrine in meth slows saliva production, Anderson said. Saliva naturally neutralizes acids and clears food from the teeth.
Decreased saliva flow allows bacteria to build up 10 times over normal levels. Without it, acids can erode tooth enamel, which in turn causes cavities.
Poor oral hygiene and neglect also might be a factor in tooth decay.