How Matthew Perry's Addiction Struggles Affected His Teeth

As part of his mission to help other people dealing with addiction issues, Matthew Perry openly discussed his own difficulties in his memoir, "Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing." Although it was undoubtedly daunting for the "Friends" star to reveal the extent of his addiction, Perry was motivated by the fact that his story could be useful to someone going through similar challenges. The beloved actor had his first experience drinking alcohol when he was 14 years old, and four years later he was drinking daily. 

When Perry was working on "Friends," he refrained from drinking and taking drugs, however, he experienced the impact of withdrawal symptoms while on the set. "I wasn't in a position to stop," Perry explained during the ABC News special "Matthew Perry: The Diane Sawyer Interview." "And that's what addiction is." In 1997, after being injured while riding a jet ski during the production of "Fools Rush In," he became dependent on Vicodin. Perry was soon taking as many as 55 pills each day, procuring them with multiple prescriptions.

In addition, he continued to struggle with alcohol, drinking significant quantities of vodka every day too. In his book, Perry was incredibly frank about the myriad ways addiction impacted his health. For instance, the beloved star lost his top teeth after he attempted to eat a piece of peanut butter toast. The actor collected them in a bag and headed to the dentist. Unfortunately, significant work was required to restore Perry's smile.

A dental procedure impacted Perry's performance

In his memoir, "Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing," Matthew Perry recalled that all his top teeth came out when he bit into a slice of toast. Besides the teeth that fell out, his dentist discovered significant damage to those remaining in his mouth. None of Perry's teeth could be salvaged, whether they were natural or dental implants. Multiple painful procedures were required as a result of damage sustained from his dependence on alcohol and painkillers, one of which was completed just days before the actor participated in the 2021 "Friends" reunion.

"The dental surgery just made my mouth feel like fire and it sounded like my voice was off," Perry informed Diane Sawyer in 2022. However, he was committed to participating and looking forward to reuniting with his "Friends" cast mates. However, Perry's slurred speech and difficulty enunciating were evident. 

Fans even expressed their concern for the actor on social media. Although this was before the publication of his memoir, they were still aware of Perry's struggles with addiction, since he had shared information about dealing with the disease on multiple occasions, including back in 2002 while "Friends" was still being produced.

Perry almost died due to addiction damage

Before Matthew Perry's untimely death on October 28, 2023, the actor required 14 surgeries, and in one instance, his family was told he had just a 2% chance of survival that night. This near-death experience occurred in 2018. Due to opioid abuse, Perry almost lost his life when he experienced a gastrointestinal perforation. Due to the severity of his situation, the medical team used an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine. This device takes the place of a patient's heart and lungs to deliver oxygen and blood throughout the body. 

Out of five patients who required an ECMO machine the night Perry was admitted to the hospital, he was the only one who lived. While he was hospitalized, Perry faced additional complications including spending 14 days in a coma. It took five months until he was well enough to be discharged, and the "Friends" star needed a colostomy bag for an additional nine months. In 2019, Perry faced another life-threatening emergency while he was in a rehab facility in Switzerland.

The actor's heart stopped for five minutes after he was given propofol in conjunction with an operation. Fortunately, a man kept Perry alive by performing CPR until his heart began beating on its own again. Following this terrifying experience, Perry asked the haunting question in his memoir: "If I hadn't been on 'Friends,' would he have stopped at three minutes? Did 'Friends' save my life again?" (via Rolling Stone).

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).