Do you enjoy a little weed before you attend a concert, in the evening while watching TV or as a little something to relax before going to sleep? Do you use marijuana to relieve pain or help deal with a medical condition, such as to alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy? Medical marijuana is currently legal in 29 states, and 8 states have approved recreational marijuana. The public’s general opinion is that smoking pot is less dangerous for one’s health than smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol, but is that true? A recent study, published in the Journal of Periodontology, suggests that frequent marijuana smoking may lead to periodontal disease.
How the Marijuana and Gum Disease Study was Conducted
The study’s lead researcher, postdoctoral resident in periodontology Jaffer Shariff, and his team from the Columbia University School of Dental Medicine, looked at dental data for almost 2,000 people in the U.S. Of that number, 27 percent of those interviewed said they used cannabis (which included marijuana, hashish or hash oil) at least once in the past year. They then determined how many of those who smoked pot versus those who didn’t had periodontal (gum) disease.
What the Study Indicated
The team’s research found that frequent marijuana smokers showed signs of gum disease twice as often as non-marijuana smokers. The study also showed that frequent recreational pot smokers were more likely to have moderate to severe periodontitis than those who smoked less frequently. The researchers were quick to point out that this association doesn’t necessarily indicate a direct cause-and-effect situation. However, due to new relaxations of marijuana laws in certain states, Shariff believed that there could be a rise in oral health issues — in particular, periodontal disease. The recommendation that came out of this study was that dentists regularly ask their patients about their cannabis smoking habits, as this may play a role in their gum condition and general oral health.
Marijuana and Other Health Concerns
Of course, concerns about marijuana and health go far beyond the gums. Long-term, heavy marijuana use has been found to have a negative effect on memory, lung health, heart rate and coordination. Pot smoke contains many of the same toxins as tobacco smoke, like formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide and ammonia, which have been found to cause cancer. While toking weed might not cause lung cancer as cigarette smoking does, there are likely risks to lung health, in addition to neurological and mental health issues.
What Can You Do for your Oral Health, if You’re a Pot Smoker?
The occasional joint might be OK for your health, but if you’re a cannabis user and prefer to smoke it rather than munch on a pot brownie, there are steps you can take to minimize the effect of the smoke on your gums and oral health. Be especially vigilant in your dental hygiene. Brush at least twice a day, and it may be helpful to brush or rinse with mouthwash after smoking. Floss daily and see your dentist regularly. You might mention that you’re a smoker, to see if they have any additional recommendations. In other words, do what you normally do, but give your mouth a little added attention to counter any harmful effects of the pot smoking. Knowledge is key, and preventative measures are a smart policy!