As the legalization of cannabis, picks up pace in the United States, health practitioners are concerned about the effects it will have on the American population’s oral health.
Marijuana use in the United States
Although the federal government has not legalized the recreational and medical use of marijuana, its recreational use is legal in 10 states while it can be used for medical reasons in 33 states. Recreational users seek to use marijuana for its mood-enhancing and sedation properties. Medicinal marijuana is prescribed on patients suffering from chronic pain and in some cases, insomnia.
In this post, we discuss some of the effects smoking marijuana can have on your oral health.
Dry mouth or Xerostomia
Cottonmouth, persistent thirst or a dry mouth is a popular side effect of marijuana use. It happens when THC, the active ingredient in the drug, binds itself to the salivary glands’ receptors. When this happens, the parasympathetic nervous system, which prompts the submandibular glands to secrete saliva, is obstructed. This means that less saliva is produced, resulting in a dry mouth.
Xerostomia is believed to be dose-dependent, meaning that the more marijuana you consume, the higher your chances of experiencing this. Therefore, reducing your marijuana dosage is one effective way of remedying the dry mouth effect. Also, sipping fluids and preferably zero caffeinated drinks could restore your mouth’s wetness. If possible, stop smoking altogether.
A research conducted by the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine has found out that marijuana users are at a higher risk of contracting gum diseases. Those who use marijuana once or multiple times a month are twice as likely to have dental issues compared to non-smokers or infrequent users. If left untreated, gum disease or periodontitis can lead to dental issues such as receding gums, swollen and receding gums, bad breath, pain while chewing, and loose teeth which may ultimately fall out.
Although marijuana has for a long time been touted to have anti-cancer properties, some experts warn that it could promote oral cancer. As with other any other substance, smoking marijuana irritates the mouth’s lining resulting in such issues as chronic inflammation, a condition also known as cannabis stomatitis. This is a risk factor for most types of oral cancer. Also, constant ingestion of THC weakens the immune system predisposing you to teeth and gum infections.
The cannabinoid compound in marijuana, THC, is an appetite stimulant. This explains why marijuana users are predisposed to snacking. Snacking exposes the teeth to acidity from sweet foods and drinks. This, along with the reduced saliva secretion, provides a perfect breeding ground for bacteria growth resulting in the development of cavities. THC also interferes with the absorption of calcium in the body resulting in weak teeth.
Just like smoking a cigarette, smoking cannabis means that you are inhaling smoke, which will inevitably stain your teeth as calculus builds on the teeth much faster. Brushing your teeth regularly can remedy this, however, your dentist could also recommend teeth whitening procedures.
How to avoid and treat these problems
When it comes to your oral health, quite a number of factors have either a positive or negative impact. One effective way of preventing dental issues in spite of marijuana use is observing good dental hygiene. Brush your teeth after each meal and floss daily. Observing regular dental visits also helps you avoid or minimize the complications resulting from smoking marijuana.
Apart from screening you for oral cancer, your dentist will also be able to check for gum disease, tooth decay, and advise you on how you can effectively deal with dry mouth.