Marijuana and Dental Health: Starting the Conversation

Marijuana legalization is sweeping across the United States and across the world. 

Although it’s still classified as illegal at the federal level in the United States and Canada, many individual U.S. states have legalized it for recreational and medical uses. Available data show that cannabis is the most commonly used drug worldwide and that about 35 million people in the U.S. use it every month. In light of this, it makes sense to consider the possible impacts marijuana can have on users' oral health. Here are some of the things we already know:

Marijuana and Dental Health: What We Know

Recent research published in the Journal of American Medical Association shows that, although there are negative dental health effects that can come with marijuana use, these effects are still not as serious as the effects of tobacco use.

The main danger is a higher-than-average risk of periodontal disease among marijuana users. Aside from this, there was no significant increase in most of the other health care concerns associated with smoking.  

It’s also noteworthy that most of the negative dental health effects revealed in this study about marijuana users were down to subpar oral health hygiene. This is because most of the habitual marijuana users studied in the research lacked proper oral health care such as brushing at least twice every day, flossing and using mouthwash regularly. But then, even among pot users with near-perfect dental care routine, there was still a high incidence of periodontal disease. 

Many marijuana users report dry mouth incidences. Could this be a part of the cause of the observed negative effects? Dry mouth can cause bad breath and reduce the ability of the saliva to rinse away food particles and bacteria.

At the moment, the American Dental Association has noted that it’s unclear whether the marijuana itself or maybe the other associated issues like tobacco, drug or alcohol use are also responsible for the oral health problem among users. But then, there are a few studies that have hinted at the possibility of a link between marijuana use and a higher risk of cavities, periodontal disease and even oral cancer.  

Going forward, more studies are expected to be launched to ascertain the core effects that marijuana use can have on an individual’s oral health. For users, it would also make sense to be forthcoming in sharing details of their marijuana usage with dentists as this can play a role in helping them provide better care for a healthier smile and better dental and overall health.