Methamphetamine abuse: Oral symptoms and dental treatment needs

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 3
  • Abstract:

    BACKGROUND: Methamphetamine: a highly addictive drug commonly used in South Africa. Users often present with poor oral hygiene, grossly decayed teeth and complain of a dry mouth. The prevalence of dental caries among users is high. METHODS: A cross-sectional study design was used with a convenience sample of 308 self-reported methamphetamine users who were part of an in- or out-patient rehabilitation programme at one of 22 specialised substance addiction treatment centres in the Western Cape. RESULTS: The majority were in their late twenties, unemployed and not satisfied with the appearance of their teeth. A dry mouth and a bad taste were the most common symptoms reported. More than three quarters reported "stiff" facial muscles and more than half, grinding of their teeth. The most common reason for the last dental visit was toothache and the most common treatment at that visit was dental extraction. CONCLUSION: Lower levels of education were associated with increased numbers of extractions and a higher probability of poor oral health. Xerostomia, a bad taste and "stiff" facial muscles were the most common symptoms reported. PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS: A thorough intra-oral examination together with comprehensive note taking is crucial for the management of patients abusing methamphetamine.