A 2017 Marist College poll found that 52% of Americans have tried cannabis, and 14% of American adults consume marijuana at least once or twice a month. Marijuana use is legal for adults aged 21 and older in Massachusetts for both recreational and medicinal use as of 2019.
While marijuana, or cannabis sativa as it is scientifically known, has been shown to have many medicinal benefits and minimal adverse effects on overall health, there is a little-known risk factor associated with smoking the plant: increased risk for gum disease.
Dr. Ryan Clancy is dedicated to staying up to date with research and advancements in the dental field and also understands that his patients may use cannabis recreationally or for treatment of serious medical conditions. Dr. Clancy is skilled at diagnosing and treating a range of oral health issues, including gum disease, and will work with you to prevent and treat any signs of poor oral health.
As wider-spread legalization opens doors for research, these studies are starting to explore many facets of the cannabis sativa plant and how it affects the human body. There have been a handful of studies that have found links between smoking marijuana and an increased risk for periodontitis, or gum disease.
A 2016 Duke study found a link between frequent marijuana smoking and higher rates of gum disease. The study found that the “decline in periodontal health in pot smokers was not explained by tobacco smoking, alcohol abuse or less tooth brushing and flossing.”
This study did not uncover the reason for the connection. However, understanding that there is an association is an important first step for dental professionals and marijuana users to better protect their oral health.
A study in the Journal of Periodontology in 2017 also found that frequent marijuana use was associated with a higher likelihood of periodontitis. Lead researcher on the study, Jaffer Shariff, told Men’s Journal that he thinks the chemicals found in marijuana are responsible for the increased risk, rather than the heat from the smoke being the culprit. He hypothesized that marijuana could be affecting the growth of bad bacteria in the mouth.
While the particulars of how and why marijuana smoke affects gum health remain to be identified, dry mouth is a common consequence of marijuana ingestion that could contribute to compromised oral health.
We have many patients who experience dry mouth for various reasons and need to work a little harder to maintain the well-being of their mouth. Dry mouth refers to having inadequate saliva, a condition that can make it difficult to speak or swallow.
Saliva has important functions in the mouth to protect your teeth. Saliva works to flush food particles from your teeth. This helps prevent plaque, which prevents the tartar that causes gum disease. Saliva also has decay-fighting antibodies that defend your teeth from bacteria, so the absence of adequate saliva can increase your risk for cavities and gum disease.
The following practices will help cannabis consumers maintain optimal levels of oral health:
- Brush and floss regularly – Plaque buildup is best controlled by frequent brushing and flossing. Consistent oral hygiene practices are key to preventing gum disease regardless of its cause.
- Drink water for its multiple benefits – Frequently sipping water helps wash away food particles. Rinsing your mouth with water after eating has also been found to be an effective way of reducing plaque buildup between brushings. If you have dry mouth, water is going to help keep your mouth more comfortable. Dehydration exacerbates dry mouth, so staying hydrated is another advantage of regularly drinking water.
- Keep your dental hygiene appointments – Dr. Clancy and his team can remove tartar and check your gum health. Our hygienists will probe and measure your gums each year, so we can detect changes before they become severe problems.
Our practice is committed to patient comfort and well-being. We are happy to work with medical and recreational cannabis users to help you maintain a healthy mouth. Contact us at (781) 396-8558 to schedule a cleaning or consultation. We serve patients in the greater Boston area, including Woburn and Winchester.