Suboxone® and other forms of buprenorphine-naloxone are widely used to treat opioid use disorder (OUD) because they reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Suboxone is a sublingual medication available in both a film and a tablet form, meaning patients take it by dissolving it under their tongues or against their cheeks.
Although this is a fairly simple, convenient way to take medication, it can take 15 to 30 minutes for Suboxone to dissolve. This amount of time leads some patients to wonder whether Suboxone poses a risk to their oral health.
Is Suboxone bad for your teeth?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released a warning that patients using sublingual medicines containing buprenorphine—including Suboxone—have reported dental problems. These Suboxone teeth problems include oral infections, tooth decay, cavities, and tooth loss. Of course for many people, these issues may have been neglected during active drug use preceding Suboxone treatment.
It’s worth noting that such oral health problems are not unique to Suboxone. Experiencing dental health issues is a common side effect of letting medications dissolve in the mouth.
Some patients notice dental health issues soon after they begin using Suboxone. They may find that their teeth feel sore or loose. In other cases, they may not realize they have these oral problems until their next dental checkup. Dentists and other oral health professionals can identify and treat these issues.
That’s not to say that all patients will experience Suboxone tooth decay or other dental problems, however. Anyone wondering, “does Suboxone rot your teeth?” will be pleased to know that over 2 million Americans use Suboxone each year, and many report no dental pain or other oral health issues.
Tips for reducing dental problems while using Suboxone
The good news is that you can take Suboxone and protect your oral health. As the FDA noted, the benefits of buprenorphine-naloxone as a treatment option for OUD outweigh the risks. Apply these tips to reduce your risk of dental problems while using Suboxone.
1. Follow the proper technique for taking Suboxone
Ask your clinical support team about the proper way to take your Suboxone dose. If you need to take multiple tablets or strips in each dose, consider applying both at once to reduce your acid exposure.
2. Rinse after your dose
After the Suboxone tablets or strips are fully dissolved, rinse your mouth out with a large sip of water. Swish it around your mouth to get rid of any of the remaining medication.
3. Wait to brush your teeth
The acid in Suboxone can soften your tooth enamel, making it vulnerable to abrasive toothpaste and brushing. Wait an hour or more after taking your dose to brush your teeth. The extra time allows the enamel to reharden, so it’s less likely to be worn away when brushing.
4. Talk to your dentist
It’s wise to share with your dentist that you’re taking Suboxone. Make sure to go in for regular checkups and reach out immediately if you notice oral health problems.
If you need a dental procedure while on Suboxone, work with your dentist and your healthcare professionals to develop a plan for treating any pain after the procedure. Some options your health team may consider include:
- Using NSAIDs (ibuprofen) or non-opioid analgesics like Tylenol to treat the pain
- Maintaining your current Suboxone dose and carefully introducing a short-acting opioid for extra pain relief
- Increasing your dose of Suboxone for a set period after the procedure
- Moving from Suboxone to methadone—a different medication treatment for OUD—once the procedure is complete
Your treatment plan for dealing with oral pain after the procedure will depend on the dental procedure, your recovery time, and the severity of your pain.
Ongoing support for OUD
Starting buprenorphine-naloxone treatment is the first step to tackling opioid use disorder. Ophelia’s care team will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses your unique needs and focuses on establishing a safe, consistent routine with your medication. As your health needs change, including dental health, your clinical team will provide guidance to help keep you on track.
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