ADA applauds legislators for 'Meth Mouth' bills

July 26, 2007
Legislation will fight oral devastation caused by drug abuse.

WASHINGTON-- Dr. Robert Brandjord, immediate past president of the American Dental Association, joined legislators on Capitol Hill today to announce support of two federal bills aimed at preventing and treating "meth mouth."

Meth mouth is a condition in whih teeth can become blackened, stained, rotting and crumbling from methamphetamine addiction. The decay can occur rapidly, causing extensive tooth loss in as little as a year.

Dentists suspect several causes for meth mouth, including dry mouth, tooth grinding and clenching, and extended periods when users do not brush or floss their teeth.

Meth mouth has become so widespread in prisons that providing dental treatment to inmates suffering from this condition is severely taxing health care budgets within state correctional systems.

The bills, which will be introduced in the House by U.S. Representatives Rick Larsen, (D-Wash.), John Sullivan (R-Okla.), Brian Baird (D-Wash.) and Mike Ross (D-Ark.), aim to prevent young people from falling victim to meth abuse and the resulting need for extensive dental care, and to ease the treatment burden on state corrections budgets. U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), plan to introduce similar bills in the Senate.

"Dentistry is all about prevention," said Dr. Brandjord. "It works in fighting oral disease and it can work in fighting drug addiction, if we can get the message to kids early and often. This legislation will give dentists and other health professionals the tools we need to help kids understand how high the stakes are."

More than 12 million Americans have tried methamphetamine (also known as meth, crank, crystal and speed), which can be swallowed, injected, snorted or smoked, according to the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The majority of users range between 18 and 34 years of age.

The "Meth Mouth Prevention and Community Recovery Act," sponsored by Reps. Larsen and Sullivan, includes funding to help dentists and others educate school-age children about the devastating consequences of meth use, with the goal of preventing first-time use. The bill also would fund research into the interrelationships among substance abuse and oral health, and the degree to which meth use affects demand for dental care.

A companion bill, the "Meth Mouth Correctional Costs and Reentry Support Act," sponsored by Reps. Baird and Sullivan, and co-sponsored by Reps. Larsen and Ross, would provide grants to states coping with the staggering costs associated with treating prison inmates suffering from meth mouth.

Some prison officials have reported that treating prisoners suffering from meth mouth consumes a large portion of the funds available to provide inmates' dental care. The bill also funds research on inmates' oral health status and the provision of dental care in correctional facilities.

"Meth mouth robs people, especially young people, of their oral health," said Dr. Brandjord. "All too frequently, it leads to a lifetime of wearing dentures because the person's teeth are so badly damaged, they can't be saved. We applaud these senators and congressmen for working to give dentistry the tools we need to fight the effects of this terrible, life-threatening drug."

For more information about the ADA, visit the Association's Web site at American Dental Association.