EDUCATION + SCHOOLS

JayMac: Kicking a drug habit by fixing the user’s teeth? Yeah, it works

Jun 11, 2019, 5:01 PM | Updated: 5:22 pm

teeth drug use...

File photo: In the first study of its kind, the University of Utah School of Dentistry provided dental care to 286 people undergoing substance abuse treatment at First Step and Odyssey House from 2015-2018. Researchers saw significant outcomes, with those who received the dental care staying in treatment two times longer and an 80 percent increase in them completing their programs, as compared with those who did not receive the dental care.

DISCLAIMER: the following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of KSL Newsradio or its ownership.

This story puts a smile on my face.

Researchers at the University of Utah School of Dentistry found that patients in drug treatment programs who received professional dental care stayed in the substance abuse programs two times longer and saw an 80% increase in completing the program than those who received no dental care.

“That was a wow factor,” says Glen Hanson, professor of the School of Dentistry at U. of U. Health.

In terms of patients finding a job, staying in a home and remaining abstinent, Hanson said, “We found that in all cases if they received comprehensive dental care, they did two to three times better than their counterparts who were just getting treatment for a substance-abuse disorder.

“If you look at substance abuse disorder,” Hanson says, “we do have medications, but about the best they can do is 10 to 20 percent improvement… so to have 200 percent is just unheard of.”

Including dental care inside a substance abuse program increases the patient’s rate of success by 200 percent. Yeah, that is a Big Wow.

Putting some teeth into the solution

If we were brainstorming on the air about how to get people off drugs, how long would it take us to land on dental care as a solution? We would never get there. I would have never thought about fixing teeth as a way to improve outcomes in drug addiction cases, but when you start to think about it, yeah, it makes a lot of sense.

Could a lack of self-esteem by sporting a set of bad teeth lead someone into drug abuse? Absolutely. We tend to look at substance abuse as the problem in and of itself, but this seems to indicate drug abuse may be just a symptom of a larger problem.

“These people all of a sudden feel a lot better about themselves. They’re smiling. They have confidence in what they’re doing and what they can do,” says Hanson. “They remove the pain because dental pain for these patients oftentimes is 24/7; it never goes away. And they restore their function, so they can eat normally and improve their social abilities. They can talk; they’re not hiding their mouth,” Hanson says.

Feds say that’s good stuff

“It’s the first time anyone has tried it in this country or in any other country that I’m aware of,” says Hanson. He and his group have presented the program at national conferences.

“They’ve started to call it the Utah Medicaid model,” he said.

Hanson said Medicaid representatives came to the U. of U. and were impressed with the program. The representatives said they were confident the federal government would approve this program, and they did, said Hanson.

“Our student have really enjoyed working with these patients. It’s been incredibly rewarding. They really like working with these folks for two reasons: There is some really interesting dentistry there, and these patients are so grateful. They so appreciate being cared for just like regular patients and normal people with normal wants.

“The dental students now know how their work can dramatically alter their patients’ lives,” Hanson said.

Once again, this is an example of how one size never fits all. We’ve been banging down the same door, saying every user abuses drugs for the same reason, or we need to lock up the drug user. But here comes someone with a different approach, and it turns out to be a huge success.

“There is a fairly robust literature showing if you improve the quality of life, you get better outcomes in the treatment of most chronic diseases, including substance abuse disorder,” says Hanson.

Quality of life includes self-confidence, increasing social interactions, finding employment and staying in a home, instead of living on the streets. Turns out fixing a patient’s teeth can deliver some or even all of those. Who knew?

The results of the study are available online in the Journal of the American Dental Association. Additionally, my team compiled a list of places where affordable dental care is available in Utah.

Jay Mcfarland hosts the JayMac News Show, weekdays from 12:30 to 3 p.m. on KSL Newsradio, as well as the fictional podcast, Hosts of Eden. KSL Newsradio is part of Bonneville Media and based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Education + Schools

A group of Weber State University students, faculty, and community members pose with the school's f...

Mariah Maynes

Weber State outdoor group conquers climb to Mount Everest base camp

According to Weber State University, a group of 16 students, faculty, and community members climbed to Mount Everest's base camp.

1 hour ago

People walk through the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, March 13, 2024....

Heather Peterson

University of Utah offers new continuing education courses

The University of Utah is trying to "close the skills gap" by offering continuing education courses for busy professionals.

5 hours ago

A team of BYU scientists, educators and creatives developed updated water cycle resources for teach...

Cassidy Wixom, KSL.com

US Geological Survey adopts BYU-made water cycle curriculum to be taught nationwide

BYU plant and wildlife science professor Ben Abbott discovered that only 15% of water cycle diagrams mentioned human impact.

10 hours ago

Alpine School District's proposed split has been blocked from the November ballot....

Heather Peterson

Alpine School District’s proposed split has been blocked from the November ballot

A bill has been passed that prevents local school board from initiating a process to split the Alpine School District's proposal

2 days ago

Outside of Bonneville High School...

Heather Peterson

Bonneville High School opens new teen center to help students in crisis

Bonneville's new teen center has a kitchen, laundry, a shower, and a food pantry as well as a living room area, and study rooms.

5 days ago

A small group gathered outside the committee room to protest agains HB261 prior to Senate members o...

Josuee Sanchez

Complaint hotline for DEI law already receiving false complaints

The DEI law hotline has received 27 false complaints in the last week, but that's far less than a hotline associated with a bathroom bill received.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Underwater shot of the fisherman holding the fish...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Your Bear Lake fishing guide

Bear Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. By preparing ahead of time, you might go home with a big catch!

A group of people cut a purple ribbon...

Comcast

Comcast announces major fiber network expansion in Utah

Comcast's commitment to delivering extensive coverage signifies a monumental leap toward a digitally empowered future for Utahns.

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

JayMac: Kicking a drug habit by fixing the user’s teeth? Yeah, it works