Effects of Marijuana Use on Oral Health
With changing legislation and evolving laws regarding the use of cannabis, more and more people are legally trying marijuana. Cannabis is most commonly inhaled as smoke but is also available in other forms such as topical ointments, edible snacks, and concentrated oils that are used in vape pens. Depending on how you consume marijuana, there could be adverse effects on your oral health if you’re not careful. Here’s what you can expect if you’re a regular marijuana smoker.
Greater Risk of Periodontal Disease
Similar to the effects of tobacco, smoking marijuana has been connected to periodontal disease, gingivitis, and general irritation of the gums. The carcinogens present when smoking marijuana can have a negative effect on the entire body, particularly the gums and teeth. When inhaling smoke, the high temperatures can be especially irritating to the gums, which can lead to swelling, sensitivity, and even bleeding in the gums. The more you smoke and the longer you regularly use marijuana throughout your lifetime, the more at risk you are for periodontal disease.
To help prevent gum disease, dentists recommend a careful and diligent oral hygiene routine that involves brushing the teeth twice per day and flossing once a day. If you are noticing gum sensitivity and irritation, you may want to consider consuming cannabis in a different form other than smoking. Marijuana edibles and ointments, although there may be other health issues to consider with these, won’t irritate the gums the same way as inhaling smoke. If you use marijuana medicinally, be sure to ask your doctor which form may be best for you.
Staining and Discoloration of the Teeth
The smoke from marijuana can also have a staining effect on your teeth if you are not practicing good oral hygiene. Even when brushing and flossing regularly and seeing your dentist for routine teeth cleanings every six months, there is a risk of discoloration. Again, the carcinogens in marijuana smoke can leave stains on the teeth when inhaling regularly. Although tobacco smoke appears to cause a more pronounced discoloration than marijuana, inhaling smoke of any kind will eventually stain the teeth if done repeatedly.
To combat discoloration and staining of the teeth due to smoking marijuana, you should think about whitening treatments to keep your smile looking bright. Of course, there are some things to consider before whitening your teeth, such as dental sensitivity, irritation of the gums, and other issues that may need to be resolved before a professional teeth whitening treatment can be done. You can always ask your dentist if you’re a good candidate for teeth whitening to help with chronic discoloration.
Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a common side effect of smoking marijuana and is experienced by most cannabis users to some degree. Unfortunately, it can have a very negative impact on your oral health in the long run. Saliva is necessary to balance the PH of your mouth, as well as prevent tooth decay, bad breath, fungal infections in the mouth, inflammation of the tongue, and more. A healthy level of saliva is also needed for chewing and speaking, so you can see why dry mouth is not ideal for your dental health.
Some things you can do to help with the symptoms of dry mouth are staying hydrated, avoiding sugary or acidic food and drinks, limit your caffeine intake, and use a mouthwash specifically designed for dry mouth. It could also help to chew sugar-free gum or hard candies to stimulate the flow of saliva. It’s essential to try to keep your saliva production at a certain level to avoid the harmful effects of dry mouth, particularly bad breath and tooth decay.
Increased Levels of Bacteria and Tooth Decay
For people who have been smoking marijuana for more extended periods of time, it’s not uncommon to see irritated gums start to separate from the teeth. This separation creates a pocket between the gums and teeth where plaque and bacteria can grow. This eventually will result in gum disease, tooth decay, bad breath, and other dental issues if not treated by a dental professional.
Additionally, according to the American Dental Association, some research suggests that smoke from cannabis can have an immunosuppressive effect on the mouth. This can lead to higher levels of bacteria and oral candidiasis colonies in people who regularly smoke marijuana. Again, this puts the patient at risk for tooth decay and cavities. It’s important to speak to your dentist about this risk and how to best prevent bacteria in the mouth from causing tooth decay. Practicing good oral hygiene and regularly visiting your dentist will go a long way with countering this particular issue.
Overall Oral Health Implications of Marijuana Use
To summarize, continued smoking of marijuana paired with poor oral hygiene can be a dangerous combination when it comes to your oral health. Some of the issues patients encounter often include:
- Periodontal Disease
- Stained Teeth
- Dry Mouth
- Bad Breath
- Tooth Decay
- Increased Bacteria in the Mouth
By visiting your dentist regularly for routine dental exams, teeth cleanings, and consultations, patients can stay on top of their oral health and avoid some of these common problems. If you are a regular marijuana smoker, consider discussing preventative tips and available treatments with your dental professional to help keep your teeth strong and healthy. Contact Absolute Dental to schedule an appointment today!
With evolving laws regarding the use of cannabis, more and more people are legally trying marijuana. It can have effects on your oral health if you’re not careful. Here’s what you can expect if you’re a regular marijuana smoker.
Is Smoking Marijuana Bad for Your Oral Health?
You are probably already aware that there is growing support for the legalization of marijuana for both general use and medical use in the U.S. and other countries. There already are states that have legalized the possession of marijuana for citizens who are 21 years or older. Regardless of the legislation and continued debate about legalizing marijuana, people have been using marijuana for many years and it has become a topic regularly talked about in recent years. If you already use Marijuana for medical or recreational use or are considering using it, there are several things you need to be aware of in terms of how it affects your oral health.
Research shows there is a relationship between marijuana use and poor oral health. One factor that has been linked to using marijuana is dental caries or cavities. Research shows that if you smoke marijuana regularly that you are at high risk of developing cavities compared to those who don’t use marijuana. This finding suggests oral health problems in terms of dental caries that are related to smoking marijuana can occur as early as adolescence. Smoking marijuana regularly also increases your chances of developing periodontal disease and oral lesions.
There are several causes of these types of oral health problems in marijuana users. The condition of ‘cottonmouth,’ where your mouth becomes extremely dry due to the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on your nervous system leads directly to dental problems. Saliva is needed to wash away food particles and bacteria which helps keep your gums and teeth healthy. Cottonmouth can tooth decay, tooth loss, bad breath, and sores on the gums, tongue and roof of your mouth.
Also, the heat you inhale when smoking marijuana can damage healthy tissue inside your mouth. This makes it more likely that the toxic chemicals found in the smoke will be absorbed by the membranes inside your mouth which normally protect against this. These toxins and bacteria can remain in your mouth for hours or even days leading to periodontal disease, swelling, pain and tooth decay.
Another reason marijuana use puts you at risk for dental problems is related to your appetite. If you have used marijuana you are probably aware of how hungry it makes you feel. You may also be aware that you crave certain types of foods. In fact, marijuana use is likely responsible for the consumption of untold amounts of ding dongs, nachos, pizza and anything deep fried. Cravings result from certain cells in the brain which normally shut off hunger, stimulating hunger instead leading you to feel ravenous, specifically for carbohydrates.
Your cravings for carbohydrates occurs because marijuana mirrors the effects of carbohydrates in the stomach which triggers cellular changes causing you to want to eat more foods high in carbohydrates. This is the reason why you can’t eat just one French fry.
Cravings after marijuana use, however, are far more intense than just hunger related cravings, because marijuana also shuts off the satiation center of the brain. This means that you will have food cravings even if you have just eaten, and the lack of a satiation trigger leads to you likely consuming large amounts of high carbohydrate foods. Carbohydrates put you at significant risk of developing dental problems since these foods are high in sugar which adheres to teeth and leads to cavities. Pizza, nachos and other junk made with tomatoes or tomato sauce also create dental problems from the acid which erodes your enamel. Some of the worst foods for your oral health include:
- Soft drinks
- Dried fruit
- Jellies and jams
- White bread
- Potato chips
Other ways that marijuana use may affect your oral health involve your gums. The THC and other irritants in marijuana smoke can cause damage to your gums leading to swelling, infections, gingivitis and whitish grey lesions forming on your gums. These conditions can lead to tooth and bone loss, and an increase or decrease in gum tissue, common symptoms of gum disease. You also are at greater risk of developing opportunistic infections in your mouth which can spread to other areas of your body. In part, this can occur because marijuana inhibits the production of antibodies which mean your immune system can’t fight off infectious agents when you are exposed to bacterial or viral agents. Finally, smoking marijuana can increase your risk of developing oral cancer.
If you smoke marijuana for medical or recreational reasons, there are several strategies that can help treat and/or prevent dental problems. These include:
- Practicing excellent oral hygiene including brushing each time you eat
- Eating healthy foods
- Using mouth wash specifically formulated to increase moisture in your mouth
- Avoiding mouth wash with alcohol
- Decreasing your intake of carbohydrates
- Decreasing your intake of sugar
- Drinking plenty of water
- Avoiding carbonated beverages except for carbonated water
- Having regular dental cleanings and examinations
- Talking to a dental health care provider for tips to ensure better oral health
Cho, C. M., Hirsch, R. S., Johnstone, S. P., (2005). General and oral health implications of cannabis use Australian Dental Journal, 50(2):70-74.
D’Amore, M. M., Cheng, D. M., Kressin, N. R., Jones, J., Samet, J. H., Winter, M., … & Saitz, R. (2011). Oral health of substance-dependent individuals: impact of specific substances. Journal of substance abuse treatment, 41(2), 179-185.
Thomson W.M., Poulton R., Broadbent J.M., et al., (2008). Cannabis smoking and periodontal disease among young adults. JAMA, 299:525–531.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2015). Oral Health; Preventing Cavities, Gum Disease, Tooth Loss, and Oral Cancers: At A Glance 2011. Retrieved from https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/11862.
Warnakulasuriya, S. (2009). Causes of oral cancer–an appraisal of controversies. British dental journal, 207(10), 471-475.
If you already use Marijuana for medical or recreational use or are considering using it, there are several things you need to be aware of in terms of how it affects your oral health. Read Full Article