"Meth Mouth" On The Rise In Prisons Nationwide

February 21, 2005 -- Posted at 9:15 p.m. CST

JONESBORO -- It's called "meth mouth"-- it's triggered by the long term use of

methamphetamine, and lack of dental care.

"It dries your mouth out as a side effect of speeding up your metabolism. As your mouth gets dried up it makes food stuff basically stick to your teeth. That makes it harder to clean," said dentist John Rowe.

Dentists and jailers nationwide are seeing an increasing number of drug convicts complaining of toothaches, and rotting teeth.

"Eventually decay so severe parts of your teeth will start to crumble and fall out," said Rowe.

In Salem Arkansas, roughly 95 percent of the prisoners in the Fulton County Jail have been arrested because of methamphetamine use and production.

The county's chief jailer says she is making regular trips to the dentist office because of complaints by the inmates.

Dr. Rowe says using meth for just a few weeks can lead to tooth decay.

"Methamphetamine is just so addictive that often times the decline in your oral health is almost addictive," said Rowe.

Dr. Rowe says long term use can lead to severe infections in your mouth that can easily spread to other parts of your body.