Marijuana, also commonly known as cannabis, has gained increased media attention in recent years. This is mostly due to its changing legal status in many states across the United States. While its effects on physical and mental health have been widely researched. discussed and debated, there is one area that is often overlooked – dental health. The relationship between marijuana use and oral health is an intriguing topic that warrants further exploration to see the possible negative and positive effects.
Popularity of Marijuana
Marijuana’s use is on the rise globally, thanks to shifting legal regulations and increased social acceptance. It is commonly smoked or consumed in various forms, such as edibles, oils, and tinctures. The active compounds in marijuana, most notably delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) have differing effects on the body, including the oral cavity.
Marijuana’s Impact on Oral Health
While marijuana has gained popularity for its potential medicinal and recreational benefits, it is essential for overall systemic health to consider its impact on dental health. A comprehensive research study conducted by Duke University explored the relationship between marijuana use and oral health. The research findings sheds light on how marijuana use affects the oral cavity, distinguishing it from the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes.
No Harm to Lungs, Cholesterol, or Blood Pressure
Unlike cigarette smoking, which is widely known in the medical community to have detrimental effects on the lungs, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure, marijuana appears to spare individuals from these particular health issues. This difference highlights a unique aspect of marijuana use. However, the study revealed that marijuana use comes with its own set of oral health challenges.
Oral Health Challenges Associated with Use Of Marijuana
- Periodontal Disease: One of the most significant findings of the Duke University study is the association between regular marijuana use and periodontal disease. Periodontal disease (gum disease), affects the tissues surrounding the teeth and can lead to issues like gum recession, tooth mobility, and even tooth loss if left untreated. The study found that individuals who had used marijuana regularly over the course of 20 years experienced an increase in periodontal disease from ages 26 to 38.
- Xerostomia (Dry Mouth): Xerostomia, or dry mouth, is another oral health problem linked to marijuana use. Marijuana use can reduce saliva production, resulting in a persistently dry mouth. This dry environment within the oral cavity can promote bacterial growth. This can increase the risk of developing tooth decay and oral infections.
- Leukoplakia: Leukoplakia is characterized by the appearance of white spots or patches on the inner lining of the mouth. While it is more common among cannabis users, it is unclear whether cannabis itself is the sole cause or if other irritants, such as orally inhaled smoke, play a contributing role.
- Gingivitis: Gingivitis is a common oral health issue among marijuana users. Inflamed and bleeding gums characterize it and are primarily attributed to the presence of smoke in the mouth during marijuana use.
- Teeth Stains: Teeth stains are another consequence of marijuana use. The act of smoking, whether it is cigarettes or marijuana, can lead to teeth discoloration. Over time, teeth may turn yellow and, in the case of heavy smokers, even brown.
- Leukoedema: Leukoedema, a condition characterized by white patches on the inside of the mouth, is more prevalent among cannabis users. However, as with leukoplakia, the direct relationship between marijuana use and this condition remains unclear.
The Medicinal Perspective
While the recreational use of marijuana has its dental health concerns, the medicinal use of cannabis products, particularly CBD, is a different story. Some studies suggest that CBD may have anti-inflammatory properties, potentially benefiting individuals with conditions like gum disease or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. We are still in the early stages of researching this aspect and do not yet fully understand its implications for dental health.
Managing the Impact
Given the growing prevalence of marijuana use, both recreational and medicinal, dental professionals must educate patients about the potential dental health risks associated with its use. Equally important is the need to foster open and non-judgmental communication with patients about their marijuana use. This is so they can receive guidance on managing its effects on oral health.
Dentists can provide the following recommendations to patients who use marijuana:
- Stay Hydrated: Encourage patients to drink plenty of water to counteract the effects of dry mouth. Chewing sugar-free gum or using xylitol-containing products can also stimulate saliva production to alleviate this condition.
- Adopt Proper Oral Hygiene: Emphasize the importance of maintaining a regular oral hygiene routine, including brushing 2x per day, flossing daily, and using an antiseptic mouthwash.
- Monitor Diet: Encourage patients to make healthy dietary choices and limit sugary snacks, especially after experiencing the “munchies.”
- Smoke with Caution: If patients choose to smoke marijuana, advise them to consider alternatives. These can include vaporizers, which produce fewer harmful byproducts, and to avoid prolonged, frequent smoking sessions.
- Regular Dental Visits: Stress the necessity of routine dental examinations and cleanings to detect and address dental issues early on before they develop into more serious issues.
Marijuana’s impact on dental health is a complex and evolving research topic. The medicinal potential of certain compounds found in cannabis raises intriguing possibilities while also presenting clear concerns, especially in smoking form. As marijuana becomes more widely accepted and accessible, the dentists must adapt to meet patients’ unique smile needs. Ultimately, it’s essential for patients to remain educated about the potential risks. They should actively engage with dental professionals to lower the impact of marijuana on their oral health.
About Marielaina Perrone, DDS
Dr. Marielaina Perrone is a highly respected and experienced dentist in Henderson, Nevada. With over two decades of expertise in providing quality dental care to her patients. She graduated from Stony Brook University School Of Dental Medicine. She has completed advanced training in cosmetic dentistry, implant dentistry, and treatment of advanced periodontal disease.
Dr. Perrone remains committed to staying up-to-date with the latest advancements in dentistry and continuing education to ensure she provides the best possible care for her patients in Las Vegas and Henderson NV.
Dr. Perrone takes a patient-centered approach and believes in personalized treatment plans tailored to each individual’s unique needs and preferences. Her gentle and compassionate demeanor creates a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere for patients during their dental appointments.
Aside from dentistry, Dr. Perrone enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, and cooking. She also volunteers her time and expertise to various charitable organizations in her community.