Dental disease prevalence among methamphetamine and heroin users in an urban setting: a pilot study. Academic Article uri icon


  • Researchers have reported rampant caries among methamphetamine users. The authors investigated the prevalence of dental disease and associated risk behaviors in methamphetamine users compared with those in heroin users.This pilot project was a cross-sectional study of an ongoing cohort of young adult injection-drug users (IDUs) in San Francisco. Participants completed an oral health questionnaire administered by a research assistant, and dentists performed clinical examinations to record the participants' data in terms of scores on the decayed-missing-filled surfaces (DMFS) index, presence of residual roots, scores on an oral hygiene index and whether any salivary hypofunction was observed.The prevalence of dental disease among 58 young adult IDUs was strikingly high compared with that in the U.S. general population; however, the authors found no difference in the level of dental disease between users of methamphetamine and users of heroin. The mean DMFS score and number of decayed surfaces exceeded 28 in both groups.Although the authors detected no difference in dental disease between methamphetamine and heroin users, they found a high prevalence of caries and caries-associated behaviors in the sample of young adult IDUs.Given the high level of dental disease observed in this population of young adult IDUs, one next step may be to explore the feasibility and effectiveness of providing low-intensity preventive measures (such as distribution of chlorhexidine rinses or xylitol gum or application of fluoride varnishes) through outreach workers.

publication date

  • September 2012