With recreational marijuana use becoming increasingly more common as the number of states permitting sales continue to grow, researchers have started further examining what long-term impact marijuana use may have on the body, especially on our oral health. A new study from researchers at Columbia University has discovered that frequent recreational use of cannabis – including hash oil, hashish, and marijuana – increases an individual’s risk of gum disease. This makes it important that patients who do smoke schedule regular exams with their Seaside family dentist to protect their long-term oral health.
The results of this recent study were published in the Journal of Periodontology.
Cannabis’ Impact on Oral Health
An inflammatory reaction to a bacterial infection that has developed below the gum line, periodontal disease can cause permanent tooth loss and receding gums when left untreated. Chronic gum disease has also been linked in studies with a variety of illnesses not related to oral health, such as arthritis and cardiovascular disease.
Smoking tobacco ranks as one of the most common risk factors for gum disease, but researchers were unsure whether smoking cannabis would also increase the user’s risk for periodontal disease. With the number of states allowing recreational use continuing to grow, researchers looked to answer this question before it could spiral uncontrolled into a massive public oral health problem.
Researchers from Columbia began their study by analyzing data from over 1,900 U.S. adults who participated in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2011–2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. In their review of the data, researchers found that roughly 27 percent of the participants reported using cannabis one or more times in a one-year period.
Periodontal exams focus on the health of a patient’s gum tissue and whether their teeth show any signs of shifting or moving in the mouth. Additionally, periodontal exams include looking for signs of plaque, and gum recession, bleeding, or inflammation. Researchers uses a probe to measure the space between teeth and the surrounding gum tissue.
Healthy gums enjoy a secure fit, with no more than one to three millimeters of space between the surrounding gum tissue and tooth. Deeper spaces typically indicate the presence of periodontitis.
Of those adults whose records were examined in the study, frequent cannabis users had more deep pockets that indicated moderate to severe periodontal disease when compared to those who used cannabis less frequently.
Once researchers considered known risk factors for gum disease, such as cigarette smoking, regular cannabis users were still twice as likely to exhibit the signs of gum disease when compared to those who did not frequently uses cannabis products. While researchers caution that more study is needed, these results suggest that oral health care providers should at least start asking patients whether they use cannabis as part of determining their risk for gum disease.
Protecting Your Oral Health
When it comes to lowering your risk of gum disease, tooth loss, and other oral health problems, preventative dental care ranks as your most effective option. By scheduling regular exams and cleanings with Dr. Santos, and by brushing twice a day and flossing daily, you can successfully lower your risk of gum disease.