Does Medical Marijuana Usage Affect Oral Health?

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How does medical marijuana usage affect oral health and hygiene?

Medical Marijuana legislation has recently made this topic unavoidable and has removed the taboo from the conversation. Multiple states have already legalized the plant for medicinal purposes, and by 2018, it will be federally legal recreationally.

It’s important to keep an open mind when discussing this subject matter. Reasons as to why people consume medical marijuana vary dramatically in every case.

Some people rely on the drug to cure side effects of cancer, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and other unfortunate diseases. Recreational users just like the feeling of relaxation it brings, better known as a high.

This article is not meant to promote usage or to judge anybody partaking in smoking activities. What we would simply like to do is pinpoint oral cons that come with heavy usage. Then, we would like to guide you in taking care of these issues properly

How Marijuana Affects Teeth:

A study published June of 2016 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, stated that long-term medical marijuana usage increases risks of developing periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is best described as inflammation of the gums, the main reason for tooth loss.

The study followed a group of 1,037 New Zealanders born in 1972 and 1973. Researchers examined if the subjects had used medical marijuana between the ages of 18 and 38 and if they had developed health issues by 38.

At least 55.6 percent of those who smoked regularly for the past 15 to 20 years developed gum disease, while only 13.5 percent of those who had never smoked medical marijuana developed periodontal disease.

It’s no secret that smoking cigarettes increase your chances at gum disease. Any smoke or vapor can be harmful to your mouth, lungs, and heart. This particular study, however, found no direct correlation between heavy pot users in the last two decades and cardiovascular issues.

No lung functions were any less useful than those who had never smoked the plant either. Previous studies have linked weight gain, brain changes and worsening of sexual function to heavy pot usage.

This topic can fill hundreds of websites with different perspectives, but it’s important to focus on the task at hand: how does medical marijuana affect dental health and how can we solve/prevent it?

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Dental Cons of Smoking Marijuana:

1) Teeth Staining – One of the cons to smoking medical marijuana comes in the form of yellowing or light-green stains on the surface of the teeth.
SOLUTION: Professional teeth whitening, electric toothbrushes, and porcelain veneers. Zoom teeth whitening procedure help with stains much more than any other method.

2) Oral Cancer – Although tobacco and nicotine are far worse for oral health, long-term medical marijuana use can also increase the odds of living with this fatal disease. Gum tissues lose their stippling and become fibrotic, leading to irritation and mutations on the cellular level.

SOLUTION: Avoid high temperatures as much as possible when smoking. High heat can be the leading cause of sores in the mouth. Also try to minimize the time the smoke is kept inside your mouth, as that can often be worse than instantly exhaling cigarette smoke. Opt for vaporizing or eating medical marijuana instead of smoking. Any smoke can be detrimental to your oral health.

3) Dry Mouth – Better known as cotton-mouth, xerostomia can lead to higher amounts of caries and cavities. While under the influence of medical marijuana, the nervous system reacts by reducing the production of saliva. A decrease in saliva causes bad breath and increases your chances of tooth decay.

SOLUTION: Avoid sugary beverages at all costs despite your cravings. Soft drinks, energy drinks, and other juices increase plaque retention. Stave off carbohydrates and remember to always stay hydrated with clean water.

4) Gum Disease -Medical Marijuana, like cigarette smoke, is also linked to increased gum disease. Those who smoked weed in the New Zealand study were three times as likely to develop periodontal disease than those who had never smoked. Smoke can be unhealthy for the mouth despite its derivative substance.  

SOLUTION: Oral hygiene is the only way to prevent periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. Brushing your teeth first thing in the morning and right before bed is essential in maintaining oral health. Flossing should also be a part of your routine throughout the day. Sometimes it can be as easy as swishing some mouthwash around after lunchtime.

5) Immune System – According to the A.M.S.A (American Medical Student Association), medical marijuana users tend to get sick more often than those who don’t smoke. The immune system crashes when introduced to foreign substances as means of protection.

SOLUTION: Maintain a balanced diet and drink the recommended amounts of water every day. Visit San Diego dentist specialist regularly, and make sure to remain active through daily exercise.

It’s no secret that medical marijuana is one of the most popular substances in the world, especially among young people. It’s imperative to have open conversations about the effects of this plant that is becoming more mainstream by the second. It would be counteractive to carry on with this culture of keeping medical marijuana hidden in the shadows.

Despite still being considered a schedule 1 drug by the FDA, with the likes of meth and heroin, buying medical marijuana will soon be considered the status quo.


If you have any doubt about your oral health, contact our Clairemont dentist at (858) 800 3909 to a Free Second Opinion check-up.

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