Now that recreational cannabis (marijuana) has been legal in Washington State since 2012, we are better able to see the effects it has on your oral health. As health professionals, we understand the benefits of cannabis use. It can be used to treat a variety of ailments, but we also want to educate you, as the consumers, about the impacts it can have on your gum and tooth health.
As the legalization of marijuana is fairly recent and is only occurring on a state by state basis, there still isn’t a lot of data to determine long term oral health effects. The data has concluded that with an increase in more frequent marijuana use also seems to include an increase in tobacco, alcohol and sometimes other drug use. Poor oral hygiene practices with an increased amount of snacking on high sugar/carbohydrate foods. Smoking (of any kind) can also lead to dry mouth (xerostomia), which significantly increases the risk for cavities.
Marijuana use has also been associated with increased risk of periodontal disease. A systematic review published in 2019 that adjusted for the previously mentioned confounding factors found significantly higher rates of periodontal disease in marijuana users over non-users. They also found that of those cases, there was an increase in the number of pocket depths greater than 4mm, meaning greater attachment loss and worse severity of disease.
There is still ongoing research to determine further and long term effects of cannabis use on oral health. Work is continually being done to distinguish between smoking marijuana and other forms of use. It is thought that some of the negative effects may be the result of smoking rather than the actual cannabis itself. We want you to know we strive to stay up to date and will share information in the future as it is made available, but in the meantime here are some steps you can take to help improve your oral hygiene to curb the effects of cannabis use:
- Always practice good oral hygiene habits at home. Brushing for 2min 2x/day with an electric toothbrush, and flossing or using a water flosser daily.
- Use a toothpaste and mouthrinse that contain fluoride. If you have concerns about fluoride, try xylitol as an alternative.
- Stay up to date on dental visits. Keeping up your preventive visits will ensure we catch any emerging disease or cavity early on.
- If you are experiencing dry mouth, speak with your dental provider to learn how you can treat it.
We are here for you! Please Ask Questions! We know many people still do not feel comfortable discussing their marijuana use, but please be assured we as health care professionals are not here to judge you. We are here to share the knowledge we have gained to improve and maintain your oral health!
American Dental Association