Teeth ground to nubs, others black with rot, abscessed gums, and other dental nightmares. That’s what Minnesota prison dentist Stephen Boesch sees with increasing frequency in the mouths of inmates, says the St. Paul Pioneer Press. With a more than fivefold increase in the number of methamphetamine offenders behind bars, the drug’s effect on teeth is taking its toll on the state prison budget’s bottom line. “Meth offenders certainly bring added and unusual challenges to the correctional system. We are just starting to get our hands around some of the physiological damage that occurs in some offenders and the most dramatic of those are the dental problems,” said Deputy Corrections Commissioner Dennis Benson. “This adds to an already insufficient health care budget, which is very difficult for us to manage.”
Last year, the state spent $2 million on dental care for inmates out of a total health care budget just under $30 million. That’s up from about $1.2 million on dental costs the state spent in 2000, before meth’s impact was fully felt in state prisons. Abscessed gums and cracked teeth are typical of dental problems experienced by the hundreds of former meth users in state prisons. It’s what folks inside prisons and outside the walls – officials and inmates alike – call by one name, “meth mouth.” “We’re seeing it come in groups of mouthfuls of problems,” Dr. Boesch said.