Since 2012, recreational cannabis (marijuana) usage has been legal in Washington State. Since then, its use and consumption has increased, giving us a better picture of the effects it has on a user’s oral health. As legalization is still relatively recent and has not been adopted by all states, there still isn’t a lot of data to determine the long-term effects on oral health.
As healthcare professionals, we have an understanding of the benefits that cannabis usage can have to treat a variety of illnesses, but with our knowledge of its impacts on oral health, it is important for us to educate cannabis consumers on how it can adversely affect their gum and tooth health.
Marijuana use has been associated with increased risk of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease (which you may have heard of it referred to as gingivitis in its earliest form) or gum disease, is an infection of the tissue that surrounds your teeth and holds them in place.
Of the data collected, the results can be confused with a variety of factors that are also commonly associated with frequent cannabis usage. Associated factors include: high tobacco usage, partaking in alcohol and other drug use, poor oral hygiene practices, and increased snacking on high sugar/carbohydrate foods.
In 2019, a systematic review was published that adjusted for the previously mentioned confounding factors, found significantly higher rates of periodontal disease in marijuana users over non-users. In those cases, there was also noted an increase (beyond that of a healthy measurement) in the depth of the gum pockets surrounding the teeth of 4mm or greater. This indicates a measurable loss of attachment of the gums to the teeth, meaning the gum disease is more severe.
It is important to know that smoking (of any kind) can also lead to dry mouth (xerostomia), which significantly increases the risk for cavities.
Research on cannabis and oral health is still ongoing in order to determine the long-term effects; in addition, determining the difference in those effects of smoking and other forms of it’s use. There is belief that some of the negative effects noted may actually be the result of smoking, rather than the consumption of cannabis itself.
The more research that is conducted and information that is made available, we will strive to stay up to date on, as well as share that knowledge. Currently, the steps that can be taken to mitigate the effects of cannabis use are:
- Practicing good oral hygiene habits at home.
- Brushing for 2min2x/day with an electric toothbrush, and flossing or using a water flosser daily.
- Using a toothpaste and mouthrinse that contain fluoride.
- If you have concerns about fluoride, xylitol can be tried as an alternative.
- Staying up to date on dental visits.
- Keeping up your preventive visits will ensure we catch any emerging disease or cavity early on.
- Dry mouth – There are prevention and treatment solutions.
- Speak with your dental provider to learn how you can treat it.
- Please ask us questions!
- We know many people still do not feel comfortable discussing their marijuana use, but please be assured as health care professionals, we are not here to judge you. Sharing the knowledge we have gained is one step we can take to help improve your oral health!
American Dental Association