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.