As more states across the US are legalizing marijuana, its consumption is becoming less taboo and more people are talking with their dentists about the risks of smoking in regards to gum and tooth health. This has caught the oral health experts largely off guard, as very few studies have been done in this area, unlike with other products such as tobacco. Of the studies currently published, most were poorly conducted or rely on epidemiological data rather than more robust clinical trials. However, according to a 2008 review paper on the subject, it was concluded that common side effects of marijuana smoking include xerostomia (chronic dry mouth), leukoedema (white, filmy mucous layers), increased incidence of periodontal disease, increased prevalence and density of the fungus Candida albicans, and oral cancers.
Gum disease. Missing teeth. Painful gums. Clearly, meth isn’t the only drug that can ruin your mouth. Still, most marijuana users aren’t thinking about their dental hygiene 15 or 20 years from now. But considering the potential effects, maybe they should.
What Is Periodontitis?
Gum disease is a very common condition where the gums become swollen, sore or infected.
Most adults have gum disease to some degree and most people experience it at least once. It’s much less common in children.
Symptoms include bleeding gums when brushing the teeth and can lead to bad breath.
This early stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis.
If gingivitis isn’t treated, a condition called periodontitis can develop.
This affects more tissues that support teeth and hold them in place.
If periodontitis isn’t treated, the bone in the jaw may be damaged and small spaces can open up between the gum and teeth.
Teeth can become loose and may eventually fall out.
What Does Marijuana Do to Your Mouth?
Gum disease traditionally happens in middle age and is most often caused by a build up of plaque and poor dental hygiene. However, researchers found cannabis use increased the likelihood of it happening by early middle-age.
Regular cannabis use can make teeth fall out by their thirties, a new study has found.
Smoking marijuana for up to 20 years was found to cause gum disease – the leading cause of tooth loss.
The study of more than 1,000 people found using the illegal drug for as long as 20 years was linked with the condition.
Known medically as periodontal disease, it is a common condition where gums become sore and swollen.
It affects the tissues surrounding the teeth which hold them in place, and can eventually cause them to fall out.
First, the Tetrahydrocannibol (THC) found in marijuana interferes with calcium absorption. Guess what your teeth need to stay strong? That’s right – calcium. With enough THC over the years, we might find ourselves in Joe’s shoes:Joe drank milk almost every day. He also liked to snack on cheese. These top sources of calcium might have kept his teeth healthy, but Joe also smoked marijuana every day. Through his consistent use of pot, Joe counteracted every glass of milk he ever drank. Lacking the calcium they needed, Joe’s teeth suffered severe decay. In fact, his dentist bought a shiny new sports car with the fees from Joe’s fillings and root canals.
Second, previous studies have shown that heavy marijuana use more than triples the likelihood of gum disease. It’s no wonder Kim and Mark were having such dire dental problems.
Third, marijuana users often suffer from another common side effect: the munchies. With an insatiable urge to eat all the junk food in the kitchen, the munchies virtually guarantee heavy sugar consumption. Eating a lot of sugary or fatty foods without proper follow-up dental care can quickly result in marijuana mouth. In a matter of months, users can end up with cavities and, shortly thereafter, periodontal disease sets in.
What Can I Do To Limit Health Concerns?
So, although the science regarding marijuana and the health of your teeth and mouth is far from conclusive, there is enough data to indicate that it is wise to be cautious. Based on current research, we have developed this short list of ways to keep yourself protected while still enjoying the benefits of marijuana use.
- Consider other methods of consumption such as edibles, vaporizers (remember that this isn’t a completely risk-free option either), tinctures, or oils.
- Avoid adding tobacco to joints, or consider stopping using tobacco altogether.
- Be sure to maintain better than average oral hygiene.
- Use Biotene®, or other dry mouth products to prevent chronic dry mouth which can lead to tooth decay.
- Ask you doctor about oral probiotics, which have been shown to improve ‘good bacteria’ in the mouths of smokers.
- See you dentist yearly, or more frequently is you suspect anything is wrong.
- Talk to your doctors and dentists about your marijuana use (even if you live in an illegal state) so they are aware of the additional health risks or precautions necessary.
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