"Meth Mouth" Now Prevalent in Jails Across Arkansas

FEBRUARY 21, 2005 - Posted at 1:59 p.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A new scourge for methamphetamine addicts turned convicts.  Dentists and jailers across Arkansas say prisoners are complaining about toothaches and have mouths full of rotting teeth from ingesting the drug.

The condition is known as "methamphetamine mouth" and jailers and dentists say that the disease isn't widely known, but it is plaguing prisons full of drug convicts.

In Salem in Fulton County, Chief Jailer Joann Cunnigham said about 95 percent of the prisoners in the Fulton County jail have been arrested because of methamphetamine.  She said she's constantly taking them to the dentist or the doctor.

Dentists say the condition occurs when strong acids from meth ingredients like hydrochloric acid and lye corrode teeth when users inhale the drug's smoke.  The drug dries in users' mouths, drying saliva that would block the acid and letting food build up on the gums against the teeth.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)