Can Methadone and Suboxone Destroy Dental Health?

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Most myths are initially formed around a small grain of truth. That’s certainly true when it comes to one of the most prevalent methadone and Suboxone myths: Use of these opiate medications will cause aggressive tooth decay. For those relying on methadone or Suboxone as a means of medication-assisted recovery, separating fact from fiction is extremely important.

Methadone and Dental Health

Methadone is one of the oldest and widely used medications for the treatment of opiate addiction. While a number of myths surround the use of methadone, one of the most common is that the medication adversely affects dental health. Unfortunately, this is one myth that’s rooted in truth. Methadone can cause a certain amount of tooth decay, but no more than any other opiate. And certainly nothing compared to the dental damage done by methamphetamines, a.k.a. meth-mouth.

It’s an often ignored side effect, but opiate medications commonly cause a serious reduction in the amount of saliva that is produced by a healthy mouth. Naturally, the lack of oral moisture leads to dry mouth. And thanks to the continued lack of saliva, people experience an increase of plaque and dental bacteria – a perfect atmosphere for tooth decay.

Suboxone and Tooth Decay

When compared to methadone, Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) has a different kind of chemical makeup. It is a partial opiate and is not believed to cause a significant reduction of saliva in the mouth. Even with long-term use, fewer people report seeing an increase of Suboxone-related tooth decay.

Why is Dry Mouth Dangerous?

Saliva plays an important role in dental health. Despite the fact it seems like a simple bodily fluid, saliva does much more than keep the mouth moisturized. A few of the valuable benefits are:

  • Helping to properly digest food
  • Protecting the teeth from decay
  • Preventing infection by controlling harmful bacteria in the mouth
  • Making it possible for people to chew and swallow food

How to Avoid Tooth Decay

Though methadone – and Suboxone to some extent – increases the risk of tooth decay, users aren’t condemned to a life of poor dental health. Here are some simple preventative steps:

  • Chew sugar free gum to counteract the mouth drying effects of opiate medications
  • Rinse your mouth out with water after eating
  • Floss at least twice a day
  • Brush up to four times per day
  • Use antiseptic mouthwashes up to four times per day
  • See a dentist for regular cleanings and check-ups


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Image Credits: Flickr/kate moross, Flickr/Josh Estey

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