The impact that cannabis, more commonly known as marijuana or weed, has on our behavior is well-documented. But the side effects associated with oral health aren’t discussed nearly as often. Get the facts on how marijuana affects the mouth over time and what to do if you’re concerned about your oral health.
Smoking Marijuana, Gum Disease, and Periodontitis
A New Zealand study looked at more than 1,000 individuals’ health and marijuana consumption habits. When they studied 38-year-olds who regularly smoked pot for 15 to 20 years, they found that “55.6 percent had gum disease, also called periodontal disease.”
When compared to the 38-year-olds who had never used marijuana, those who used had three times the number of gum disease cases. Statistics like this paint a clearer picture of marijuana’s negative effect on the mouth over time.. In some reported cases, the marijuana user’s gum disease was so severe it led to tooth loss.
The study from New Zealand linked marijuana use with daily oral health habits, too. People who had smoked marijuana for up to 20 years ended up having worse daily oral health habits than non-users. They actually brushed and flossed less frequently than those who had never smoked marijuana.
Smoking Marijuana and Oral Cancer Risk
The risks associated with marijuana increase when it’s smoked, which is the most common method of consumption. Marijuana is most commonly consumed by smoking with pipes, bongs, paper-wrapped joints, blunts, or other devices that heat or vaporize the flower or a concentrated form of marijuana. We’re all familiar with the risks that inhaling cigarette smoke has. Marijuana smoke has been shown to contain many of the cancer-causing agents, or carcinogens, that tobacco has, sometimes in higher concentrations.
Researchers have identified a number of complications that smoking marijuana may lead to, including:
- Damage to lung tissue, resulting in asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD).
- Decreased reproductive function.
- Increased risk of cancer of the mouth and tongue.
- Potential suppression of the body’s immune system. This is because inhaling marijuana smoke injures the cells of our large airways.
The facts don’t lie; recurrent marijuana-only smokers have more visits to the doctor for respiratory conditions than non-smokers do.
Marijuana and Xerostomia (Dry Mouth)
A common side effect of consuming marijuana is dry mouth, or xerostomia. Saliva is an important tool for preventing cavities. Because the mouth produces less saliva after consuming marijuana, the teeth lack protection from sugars and bacteria. Dry mouth can come from consuming marijuana by smoking it or even eating it. This increases the individual’s risk for cavities and tooth decay. Click here to learn more about the oral health consequences of having dry mouth.
Marijuana and Your Oral Health
Additional health complications are also associated with smoking marijuana. Heavy users report:
- Respiratory problems
- Bronchial complaints
- Abdominal cramps
- Acute panic attacks
- Short-term memory loss
- Impairment of motor skills
Caring for your oral health regularly becomes increasingly important if you’re a marijuana user. Remember to keep up on your oral and overall health care and always communicate honestly about your habits with health care professionals, including your dentist.
Looking for more on how marijuana impacts our health? Check out: