Marijuana and Oral Health

13% of American adults use marijuana regularly for either medical treatment or recreational use. This is almost twice the number (7%) of adults using marijuana in 2013. Cannabis can be used in three ways: (1) smoking/inhalation, (2) drying it into a plant resin and baking it into foods, and (3) applying it topically in creams and ointments that contain THC.marijuana cigarette - paid - shutterstock 650375488

Marijuana use often has psychological and physiological effects. Our concern today is with the effects of marijuana on oral health. These effects include:

  1. dry mouth (xerostomia). Many scientists believe the marijuana associated effect is due to all or any forms of the drug and not only with smoking the drug. Xerostomia can cause a drying out of the tissue of the mouth, which significantly reduces the risk of cavities and tooth decay. Regular cannabis users have a significantly higher number of caries than people who do not use the drug.
  2. Regular cannabis use can increase the risk for periodontal disease.
  3. Because cannabis contains particular carcinogens, like tobacco. Long-term use of cannabis has been associated is some studies with chronic inflammation of mucosa and gingival enlargement. It is unclear, however, if this effect is caused by the inhaled smoke or by the cannabis itself.
  4. Several other abnormalities are associated with marijuana use, including erythroplakia, keratosis, leukoplakia. These abnormalities can, in some cases, develop into neoplasias. They should be monitored regularly and continually.

Your dentist needs to know if you use marijuana frequently. With this knowledge we can monitor your oral health more carefully and frequently. Finally, cannabis has immunosuppressive properties that are related to the human papillomavirus. The increased cancer risk in those with HPV could lead to increased risk of cancers of the head and neck. These connections are still under analysis, however.

People do not enter dentistry in order to pry into people’s secrets and sit in judgment of them. We enter the profession because we care about people, and we want to help people protect and improve their oral and general health. Nor do we enter this profession to sit in judgment of others.

When you come to Complete Dental Care of Salem, VA, you will be met with patience and understanding. We expect you to tell us if you use cannabis regularly so that we can provide you with the best possible dental care. We do not judge our patients. If you are a regular cannabis user, please come in and talk with us about the potential risks of using marijuana. Then, let’s create a workable plan to care for your oral and general health.