The popular notion is that cannabis is a harmless pleasure. However, a new study suggests that frequent recreational use of cannabis may increase the risk of developing gum disease.
The use of cannabis — which includes marijuana, hashish, and hash oil — has become a highly relevant topic in recent years due to the rapidly changing landscape regarding the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use.
How does cannabis affect our teeth?
The researchers of the study, which was published in the Journal of Periodontology, used data from 1,938 participants in a national survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to examine the relationship between frequent recreational use of cannabis with periodontitis.
Periodontitis, which means inflammation around the tooth, is a disease that results from the accumulation of bacteria. This disease causes the destruction of the bones, gums and tissues that support the teeth, and, if not treated, can result in the loss of the teeth. It is diagnosed with a periodontal exam where the clinician uses a probe to measure the space between the teeth and the tissue around the gum, which is known as the periodontal pocket.
Are you a frequent user of cannabis?
Participants who reported using cannabis one or more times a month in the past year were classified as frequent users. The researchers found that 27% of individuals, ages 30 to 59, reported being frequent cannabis users.
What do the bags on your teeth indicate?
The result of this study indicated that frequent cannabis users had more periodontal pockets present around their teeth indicating a severe and advanced presence of the disease in the gums.
Other risk factors associated with periodontitis include:
· Tobacco use
· Drinking alcohol
Even controlling for these factors, even excluding individuals who smoke tobacco from the analysis, frequent cannabis users were twice as likely to experience periodontitis.
This finding is important as it demonstrates that recreational use of cannabis carries an increased risk of developing gum disease regardless of tobacco use, confirming the findings of a previous study conducted in New Zealand. Further studies are needed to determine if the use of medicinal cannabis has the same effect on oral health.
Cravings and lack of saliva have consequences
Cannabis use causes dry mouth and produces cravings that accommodate the consumption of cariogenic diets consisting of sugary foods and drinks. These factors in combination with frequent brushing of teeth and visits to the dentist, phenomena that tend to occur more frequently among cannabis users, can lead to oral problems.
“Saliva is a protector against cavities and against other types of changes that occur in the mouth. When one consumes marijuana, if the quality of the saliva worsens, one is exposed to having more cavities, to having more periodontal disease and other changes in the mouth, ”according to Dr. Ricardo Cartes-Velásquez, from the Faculty of Dentistry. at the University of Concepción in Chile.
In order for frequent cannabis users to maintain the health of their gums and teeth, Dr. Cartes-Velásquez suggests:
· Go to the dentist two to three times a year
· Brush your teeth after consumption
· Avoid cariogenic diet after consumption
The widespread use of cannabis can pose major oral health problems, especially for Latin America, as this July consumers of cannabis in Uruguay will be able to buy it in pharmacies. In 2013 Uruguay went down in history by becoming the first country in the world to legalize the production, distribution, sale and consumption of cannabis.
Although the consumption of cannabis will add to the worsening of the dental problems of the population, the oral health problems that exist in Latin America are influenced by other factors that are of greater weight. “In terms of public health, the impact seems to be marginal if we compare it with the issue of the cariogenic diet and the lack of high oral hygiene,” according to Dr. Cartes-Velásquez.
Instead of spreading the persecution of cannabis users, Dr. Cartes-Velásquez stressed that the role of politics and the media should be to raise awareness of the consequences of cannabis on oral health, to so they can make their own decisions about it. Above all, he emphasized that oral public health efforts in Latin America should focus on promoting oral hygiene among preschool-age children, since habits are formed in the early stages of life.