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Dental school gets $1.86 million from NIH for study of methamphetamine's effect on oral health
Date:6/29/2010

The abuse of methamphetamine a powerful and highly addictive psychostimulant that is toxic to the nervous system has reached epidemic proportions in many parts of the United States. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that more than 10 million Americans have tried methamphetamine, while more than 1.4 million are habitual users.

Long-term use of the drug can lead to devastating medical, psychological and social consequences, including mood disturbances, violent behavior, an increased risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, and higher rates of crime, unemployment, and child abuse and neglect.

It can also result in a uniquely accelerated form of extensive dental disease known as "meth mouth."

Across all fronts, the economic cost of methamphetamine use in the U.S. reached a staggering $23.4 billion in 2005, according to the RAND Corp., but that doesn't even begin to account for the personal cost in the form of human pain and suffering.

So who should be on the front lines fighting the disease? Emergency room physicians? Law enforcement personnel? How about dentists?

While case reports and media attention surrounding the creation and abuse of methamphetamine abound, very little is known about the epidemiology of "meth mouth" or the underlying mechanisms that contribute to accelerated dental decay. Thus far, the lack of a knowledge base regarding the drug's oral health consequences has prevented dental professionals from recognizing the disease in its early stages and developing best practices for treating the condition.

However, new research supports the idea that dentists could be the key to identifying covert users and getting them both the medical and dental treatment they sorely need.

The National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse has granted the UCLA School of Dentistry $1.86 million to study the oral and dental consequence
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Contact: Sandra Shagat
sshagat@dentistry.ucla.edu
310-206-0835
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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