Methadone does not rot teeth!

Yesterday I heard it again. I was examining a patient, transferring from out of state, who had been on methadone for several years. He was doing very well, and his life had improved greatly, but his teeth were in a bad state. He blamed this on methadone, and I couldn’t convince him otherwise.

First of all, teeth don’t get that bad in two years. Second, methadone does not weaken or rot teeth. Sometimes it seems that way, because after stabilizing on methadone, the recovering addict is no longer running around looking for drugs. He has more time for self-care. Taking stock, he sees bad teeth, and blames the methadone. In reality, the tooth decay is due to neglect during years of active addiction.

It’s important to get those teeth fixed, because dental pain is a common relapse trigger.

Dentists can be expensive. But you may live in a county that has low-cost dental services for people without insurance. Often you have to pay something, but the charges are based on ability to pay.

If you live near a dental school, you may be able to be seen there for free. When I was a medical student, an oral surgeon I met at a party needed to do three more extractions before he could graduate. I thought he was cute, so I told him about my ingrown wisdom teeth. Long story short…he never took ME out, but he did take my wisdom teeth out, and for free.


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