By Trish Randall
Letters to the Editor
Meth Mouth or Mouth Myth?
On Dec. 8, 2004, The Oregonian published a series of before-and-after mug shots collected by a Portland police officer purporting to show the damage
methamphetamine causes to the faces, and particularly the mouths of users. Buried deep in the article was an admission that the photos, which were
also being used by Portland police in anti-drug presentations, represented "the worst of the worst" and had not been gathered in a scientific way, as a
representation of average meth users, but to be as scary as possible. There was no mention of any effort on the part of the police or The Oregonian to
determine if other health factors influenced the appearance of these unfortunate individual's teeth.
Months later, The Oregonian published an article, "Roots of dental disparity" on October 23, 2005, and an editorial, "Oregon's jack-o'-lantern teeth"
on October 26, 2005. The article discussed how common the lack of dental care is among Portland's schoolchildren, with many kids suffering from wholesale
rotting of their teeth. The editorial reports that Oregon teeth (both children's and adults') are at graver risk due to lack of fluoridation, lack of dental insurance,
and declining ability to pay out-of-pocket for dental care in light of stagnating wages and rising energy costs.
Consider that, until into the 1950s, amphetamines were over-the-counter, that they were readily available to dieters in the 1960s and 1970s, and are
still provided by the military to personnel who need to remain alert. Are speed-driven pilots losing their teeth? Did dieters in the 1960s and 70s have
blackened mouths? How common was tooth decay among amphetamine users in the 1960s and 70s who had access to fluoridated water?
Interestingly, The Oregonian has not seen fit to re-examine the issue of "meth mouth" in light of facts they have since reported.