By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert
Marijuana (AKA cannabis) is commonly used for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Just like other recreational drugs, such as alcohol, it’s important for patients to be aware of the potential negative health effects associated with the use of marijuana. With all the buzz lately about legalizing marijuana in Minnesota, we thought this topic very timely.
Because the majority marijuana users ingest it by smoking, one’s oral health can be significantly impacted by marijuana use. According to research, the negative oral health side-effects of smoking marijuana include:
- Dry mouth, which can lead to a number of other oral health conditions.
- Cavities and tooth decay because of appetite stimulation associated with use.
- Gum disease has been linked to frequent marijuana use.
- Oral Candidiasis (thrush) which causes redness, white plaque, and soreness inside the mouth.
- Yellow teeth are a common side effect of smoking, whether it’s cannabis or tobacco.
- Risk of oral cancer is increased in regular marijuana smokers.
At Eggert Family Dentistry, one of our top priorities is to educate our patients about their oral health. Here’s an in-depth look at the oral health effects of marijuana use.
1. Dry Mouth
Also known as xerostomia, smoking marijuana can cause dry mouth by decreasing the production of saliva. Saliva acts as a natural cleanser for your mouth, carrying antimicrobial agents that kill disease-causing bacteria. Without it, bacteria are allowed to flourish in the mouth, leading to a higher risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
While dry mouth makes you more likely to experience tooth decay, appetite stimulation that marijuana users experience can also lead to an increased presence of cavities. Many cannabis users report that their consumption of high-sugar foods increases during cannabis use. This, in combination with a lack of saliva, creates the perfect environment for cavities to develop.
3. Gum Inflammation/Gum Disease
Any kind of smoke, marijuana or not, has the potential to irritate and inflame the gum tissue. Inflammation and irritation can contribute to gum disease, which is a serious oral health problem that causes tooth loss and other health complications. Gum disease can also be caused by the proliferation of bacteria that’s caused by dry mouth. It cannot be cured and requires regular treatment to manage.
4. Oral Candidiasis
Commonly known as Thrush, oral candidiasis is a fungal infection in the mouth caused by an increased production of yeast colonies. These colonies are normally present in the mouth, but the effects of cannabis in combination with poor oral hygiene can promote overgrowth. This results in redness, excess white plaque, and soreness inside the mouth.
5. Yellowed Teeth
Just like cigarette smoke, marijuana smoke contains tar and other chemicals that can adhere to the surface of the teeth, causing them to become discolored and yellow. A regular marijuana smoker may notice that these stains are difficult to remove with regular brushing and flossing. Patients may need professional whitening treatments to remove stains from marijuana smoke.
6. Oral Cancer
The link between oral cancer and marijuana smoke is still being debated and researched today. However, it has been reported that a synergistic effect between tobacco and cannabis smoke may increase oral and neck cancer risk for people who smoke both (that includes cigars that have been hollowed out and filled with cannabis).
Questions? Call Eggert Family Dentistry
Just like it’s important to be aware of the negative health effects of alcohol, so too must one be aware of the negative health effects of marijuana. If you’re a regular smoker, it is important to practice good oral hygiene and visit Eggert Family Dentistry regularly so that we can monitor your oral health. If you have questions about the oral health effects of marijuana smoking, or would like to make an appointment to have your oral health evaluated, please call us at 651-482-8412. We look forward to helping you take care of your oral health!