Background: Although it is said that drug addiction is associated with poor dental health, there is little research in this area. In particular, there is little work comparing the effects of the different drugs of addiction.
Methods: A cross-sectional patient survey of dental health was undertaken in a family practice comparing opiate and other drug addicts (DA) with non-addicts (NA). The age range was restricted to 19-45 years. Damaged teeth were counted and a semi-quantitative score applied to severity to allow the calculation of an overall dental index. A medical review only was undertaken; recognized dental diagnostic criteria were not applied.
Results: There were 233 and 47 respondents in the DA and NA groups, respectively. The mean ages and gender ratios were similar in both groups. DA used more addictive drugs than NA (all P < 0.001). DA had more absent, traumatized, major cavitated and extracted teeth (all P < 0.05). Addicts had a worse severity index (P < 0.02) and dental index (13.13 + 24.00 vs. 4.74 +/- 16.03; P < 0.005). Furthermore, dental pathology developed in DA at younger ages than in NA with 56.8% vs. 5.4% of patients younger than 38 years having dental indices more than 10 respectively (OR = 22.98, 95% CI = 5.57-200.65, P < 0.0000001). At multivariate analysis age, gender, and dose and/or duration of tobacco, methadone, morphine, and alcohol were significantly associated with these pathologies.
Conclusion: These data are consistent with published dental reports and basic science information that drug addiction has a deleterious effect on dental health, that in addiction this effect is rapid and severe, and that tobacco, methadone, morphine and alcohol contribute importantly to these changes.