The Effects of Opioid Abuse on Oral Health
Opioids are a type of narcotic drug that include fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and the illegal drug heroin. Doctors prescribe opioids for managing pain. The euphoric side-effect is one of the factors leading to abuse and addiction. Opioids are also among the medications that can create symptoms that lead to oral health issues.
Symptoms, even from short-term use, can include dry mouth, teeth grinding, appetite suppression and sugar cravings. “Addiction can lead to a weakened immune system, neglecting personal health habits, tooth decay, gum disease, and loss of teeth,” said Patel, the Arroyo Grande dentist. Opioid abuse combined with smoking further complicates good oral health.
- A good supply of saliva is necessary to maintain good oral health by keeping the mouth moist and help wash away food debris and plaque. Saliva also plays a role in good food digestion, which is critical to overall health and a strong immune system. A dry mouth is more prone to ulcers, sores, and gum disease.
- Teeth grinding puts above normal pressure on teeth and jaws. Grinding over time can crack and break teeth along with causing jaw, neck, and shoulder pain.
- Any behavior, including drug abuse, that interferes with healthy habits like dental hygiene, eating healthy, and getting lots of exercise will compromise overall health and the immune system.
These signs are warnings to the dentist that the patient’s overall health might be compromised. Along with recommending the appropriate dental procedures and an oral hygiene program, a consultation is going to include some questions about prescription drugs and related habits.
It is often the dentist who discovers the early signs of opioid abuse. The complications from dry mouth, teeth grinding and poor nutrition show up during dental exams. These signs are warnings to the dentist that the patient’s overall health might be compromised. Along with recommending the appropriate dental procedures and an oral hygiene program, a consultation is going to include some questions about prescription drugs and related habits.
The American Dental Association (ADA) encourages dentists to take additional education in Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT), a specialized practice used to identify, reduce and prevent abuse and dependence on drugs and alcohol. Dentists apply specialized techniques for identifying risky substance abuse in patients, help motivate at-risk individuals to change their behaviors, and refer patients for appropriate diagnosis and treatment for their addiction.
Some dentists are qualified to prescribe opioids for managing pain after a procedure, and are subject to the same kinds of licensing and reporting requirements as medical doctors. Generally, no more that seven to 10 days worth of pain medication is prescribed as this is usually enough to manage the short term pain after a dental procedure.
The ADA recommends that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory analgesics be the first choice for acute pain management. An April 2018 article published in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), found that a combination of acetaminophen and ibuprofen delivered the highest benefit for pain relief.
Patient comfort and well being is of the utmost importance to the Arroyo Grande dentist. Dr. Patel provides nitrous oxide as an option to local anesthetic, especially for children. Appropriate pain management treatments are always available. Dr. Patel encourages anyone who is concerned about opioid use, abuse or addiction, either personal or a loved one, to discuss the matter with him.
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