Methadone and Suboxone are medications used to treat opioid dependence and addiction. Like all other medications and medical treatments, methadone and Suboxone can cause a wide range of mild to severe side effects — including those related to oral health.
If you are using methadone or Suboxone as part of a drug detox program for opioid dependence, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of oral health problems and go on to experience a safe and successful recovery.
Here’s what you need to know about the link between methadone, Suboxone, and oral health problems, and how a drug and alcohol detox center can help you steer clear of tooth problems while recovering from opioid dependence.
Does Methadone Cause Tooth Decay?
Methadone does not directly cause tooth decay. However, according to the National Library of Health, dry mouth is a common side effect of methadone. Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, occurs when saliva production is decreased to make the inside of your mouth feel sticky and dry. This oral health condition is typically caused by factors such as dehydration, smoking, breathing through the mouth, and using certain medications.
Saliva production is essential to good oral health as it helps rinse away bacteria and reduce plaque. Without adequate saliva production, bacteria can contribute to plaque and tartar buildup to increase the risk for gingivitis, gum disease, and tooth decay.
Some people confuse methadone with methamphetamine, or “meth” for short. Meth is an illicit stimulant drug associated with a high risk of tooth decay, informally known as “meth mouth.” The American Dental Association reports that an estimated 96% of meth users have cavities, 58% suffer from tooth decay, and 31% are missing six or more teeth. Meth use causes tooth decay due in part to its highly acidic composition and ingredients. Also, because the drug has psychological effects that cause users to go long periods without consuming foods or liquids, and without caring for their teeth, it furthers tooth decay.
Does Methadone Make Your Teeth Fall Out?
Like with tooth decay, methadone does not directly cause tooth loss, though tooth loss may occur as a result of dry mouth. Decreased saliva production with dry mouth can lead to plaque and tartar buildup, which increases the risk of gum disease.
In gum disease, gums become inflamed and swollen and start receding and pulling away from teeth. Loose gums eventually result in loose teeth that can fall out easily when eating certain foods or when suffering a blow to the mouth, such as during contact sports. Gum disease that results from methadone use can be effectively treated at the dentist with deep cleaning, and with scaling and root planing.
Does Suboxone Rot Your Teeth?
Suboxone is the brand name of a buprenorphine/naloxone combination drug. Suboxone is available as a sublingual film that is placed under the tongue where it dissolves and melts quickly within about five seconds. According to SAMHSA, dry mouth — which contributes to tooth decay — is a common side effect of buprenorphine.
Suboxone is also high in acidity, which increases the risk of tooth decay. In a study published in the Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders, researchers examined the effects of Suboxone on oral health in people using the drug to treat opioid dependence. They found that Suboxone contributed to tooth pain in 54.5% of patients and that more than 90% had low to moderate levels of saliva production. Cavities, dental fillings, and cracked teeth were also common oral health problems experienced by patients using buprenorphine.
What Are the Symptoms and Signs of Dry Mouth?
Considering dry mouth is a common symptom associated with methadone and Suboxone treatment, knowing its signs and symptoms can help you avoid and prevent this oral health condition.
According to the National Library of Medicine, symptoms of dry mouth include:
- A dry and/or sticky feeling in the mouth
- A burning feeling in the mouth
- A dry and/or rough-feeling tongue
- A dry feeling in the throat
- A feeling of dryness when swallowing, speaking, or chewing
- Dry, cracked lips
- Mouth sores
- Mouth infection
Certain health conditions can also cause dry mouth, including diabetes, HIV, AIDS, and Alzheimer’s disease. Patients who are using methadone or Suboxone and who have a comorbid health condition that causes dry mouth may want to ensure they’re practicing behaviors that can reduce their risk for tooth decay and tooth loss.
How Can I Prevent Tooth Problems With Methadone and Suboxone?
If you are taking methadone or Suboxone, you can reduce your risk for oral health problems by taking steps to counteract dry mouth and maintain good oral health. First, drink plenty of water, as water helps rinse away bacteria in the mouth and contributes to adequate saliva production. Avoid consuming caffeine if possible, and stop smoking, as both of these behaviors contribute to dehydration and dry mouth.
Cut down on or omit sugary foods from your diet, as sugar can contribute to dry mouth, plaque, and tartar buildup. If you enjoy chewing gum, use brands of gum that contain xylitol instead of sugar, as xylitol is a natural sweetener that may help stimulate saliva production. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, which are high in water content and contain beneficial compounds that reduce oral bacteria. Consider adding yogurt to your diet as well, as results from a study published in Interventional Medicine & Applied Science show that yogurt may be a potential treatment for dry mouth.
Visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings, as your dentist can scrape away any plaque and tartar buildup to reduce your risk for gingivitis, tooth decay, and gum disease. Brush and floss at least twice per day, and avoid using mouthwash products with alcohol that contribute to dry mouth.
If you’re still experiencing problems with your oral health despite taking prevention steps, talk to your doctor about the possibility of using different medication or treatment for opioid dependence.
Should I Tell My Dentist I’m On Methadone or Suboxone?
If your dentist knows you’re taking methadone or Suboxone, they can suggest that you come in for regular visits so they can keep a close eye on your oral health. Your dentist can perform routine deep cleanings and inspect your teeth and gums for signs of inflammation, gum disease, and infection. Your dentist can also provide you with tips on how to avoid dry mouth and keep your mouth healthy for the duration of your drug and alcohol detox program.
Like medical doctors, dentists are subject to compliance under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) — meaning your privacy and confidentiality are protected when it comes to your health. If you feel nervous or worried about telling your dentist you’re on methadone or Suboxone due to repercussions that could potentially affect your work, social, or family lives, understand they are not allowed to disclose that information to anyone without your permission.
Where Can I Find Quality Opioid Detox Treatment?
Summer House Detox Center offers drug and alcohol detox in Florida for those with substance use disorders who want to recover in a luxurious residential inpatient setting. If you need help recovering from opioid dependence, our methadone treatment center in Florida can help you experience a safe, comfortable, and long-term recovery. Contact Summer House Detox Center today at 800-719-1090 to speak with a qualified addiction specialist and learn more about detox treatment in Florida.
Disclaimer: This post serves a strictly educational use. It does not reflect the services, products, or therapeutic approaches of this establishment or its healthcare practitioners. This blog aims not to advertise the products, services, or therapeutic approaches of any other establishment that may be associated with this site. On the subject of safe or legal services, products, and appropriate therapies, recommendations ought to be given by a qualified professional on a case to case basis.