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December JADA: Meth users see elevated dental disease

November 24, 2015 "Meth mouth" is not a myth and dentists can be among the first to recognize signs of the covert use of methamphetamine, according to research published in the December issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association.
The study helmed by a multidisciplinary team of University of California, Los Angeles, researchers found that 96 percent of 571 methamphetamine users with a range of drug use behaviors had experienced dental cavities — and 58 percent had untreated tooth decay.
Furthermore, about 31 percent of the cohort had six or more missing teeth, compared with 8.5 percent of adults in the U.S. general population who have six or more missing teeth.
Only 23 percent of the cohort retained all of their natural teeth, compared to a tooth retention rate of 48 percent among the U.S. population. Older subjects (aged 30 or older), women and cigarette smokers were disproportionately affected by dental and periodontal disease.
"This study, which to our knowledge is the first broad-based, systematic study of the dental consequences of methamphetamine use, provides conclusive evidence of elevated dental disease in methamphetamine users," researchers wrote.
The distinctive patterns of dental and periodontal disease among methamphetamine users could be used to alert dentists to hidden drug use. Also, users' concerns about dental appearance can be used to initiate brief behavioral interventions and referrals in dental settings, said lead study author Dr. Vivek Shetty, a professor in the Section of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in the Division of Diagnostic and Surgical Sciences at UCLA.
The complete study, which was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, can be read online at
Other features in December JADA include an article about how effective a mobile phone-based remote oral cancer surveillance program is at connecting primary care dental practitioners and front-line health care workers with oral cancer specialists; and a prospective cohort study by dentists in The National Dental Practice-Based Research Network that looks at the failure rate and differences in longevity of repaired or replaced restorations, and which dentist and patient characteristics are significantly associated with the incidence of restoration failure.
In addition to reading JADA online and in print, readers can access it from their phone or tablet using the JADA app, which is available for all iOS and Android devices through the App Store and Google Play.