If you are thinking of using or are already a regular consumer of marijuana it has consequences for your oral health. A quick internet search will provide you with plenty of contradicting information (it causes cancer / it combats cancer). The cancer causing effects of Marijuana use have to do with the actual smoking of it. However, if you are regularly consuming it in any form there are negative effects on your oral cavity and teeth.
- Regularly consuming Marijuana decreases your saliva flow. This is true of most medications to some degree. This is especially important to your oral health, decreased saliva is a major cause of tooth decay and also contributes to periodontal disease which may lead to loss of teeth. Decreased saliva alone can lead to rampant decay, add in sugary drinks and frequent snacking on foods high in carbohydrates and it is a recipe for disaster. A decrease in saliva is an issue that needs to be immediately dealt with and is something your Dentist / Dental Hygienist can help you with.
- Consuming Marijuana has been shown to decrease your immune system. Periodontal disease is an immune disease, a decreased immune system will make any issues you already have worse. If you already have periodontal disease, this may increase the rate that it progresses hastening tooth loss. There is also an increased risk of opportunistic infections such as Thrush, bacterial or viral infections. Periodontal disease and tooth decay are caused by bacteria that your body will be less able to combat.
- Psychological effects of regular marijuana use can lead to personality changes that lead to poor hygiene. The importance of brushing and flossing may decrease and diminished oral care leads to dental decay, periodontal disease and bad breath.
- Smoking Marijuana increases your cancer risk. The high temperatures of the smoke trigger cells to undergo changes that may lead to cancer. “Joints” contain 50-70% more of carcinogenic substances such as aromatic hydrocarbons, benzopyrene and nitrosamines than cigarettes. Marijuana smokers also hold the smoke in their lungs and mouths longer than cigarette smokers do, increasing the amount of exposure. This may also lead to Bronchitis, coughing, wheezing and increased phlegm due to damage to the lungs. Some studies have found that the cancer causing effects of smoking 3 “joints” in one day is equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes in the same period of time. On the flip side, the nicotine in cigarette smoke adds to the cancerous effects of the cancer producing ingredients previously mentioned. It is however believed that the THC in marijuana decreases the cancerous effects caused by these ingredients. Even if the THC decreases some of bad effects of the smoking, you are still at much greater risk of developing oral cancer than non smokers.
- Users of Marijuana are 3X more likely to develop periodontal disease than non-users. One study found that 55% of heavy users had severe periodontitis causing tooth loss at age 32. Smoking cigarettes and using marijuana and / or alcohol has a compounding effect.
- Smoking Marijuana stains your teeth. Instead of the dark brown/ black stain of cigarettes , the stain tends to be a greenish colour.
- It is important to let your Dentist / Hygienist know if you are using Marijuana, this way they can keep an eye out for possible side effects. Catching oral cancer early is imperative to survival rates. Also do not use Marijuana before an appointment, you cannot legally give consent for treatment if you are intoxicated, and we will not be able to provide treatment (the same is true for alcohol or other sedatives) that day. It is especially dangerous to use marijuana before an appointment that includes sedation. Sedatives have an additive effect and the result is unpredictable and dangerous.
If Marijuana is going to be a part of your lifestyle it is important that you practice good oral hygiene including brushing twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste, flossing and using a daily mouth rinse. Regular dental visits will help minimize oral complications associated with marijuana use. During your checkups you will be screened for oral cancer and suggestions can be made on how to deal with side effects such as dry mouth, bad breath. Cavities and gum disease will be found before they get severe and stain will be removed. It is important to be honest with your dentist / hygienist. Remember we are not here to judge, but to help, and we can only provide proper care if we know all the facts.