The legalization of cannabis across many states in the US has ensured that people — even in the illegal states — no longer need to hesitate to talk about their consumption of the drug with doctors.
This means that doctors, including dentists, now have an all-new set of questions to answer – out of which one common question that they often have to deal with is: “Is smoking cannabis harmful to one’s teeth?
To this, all dentists would say that smoking — whether it’s tobacco or marijuana – is always bad for oral health. However, they may not be able to pinpoint symptoms and conditions that are specific to only marijuana, as only a handful of studies have been conducted in this area.
The common oral side-effects of smoking marijuana though, include chronic dry mouth (xerostomia), white, filmy mucous layers (leukoedema), a high density of Candida albicans (fungus) and a high risk of developing periodontitis.
Let’s take a look at a few studies that shed more light on the matter:
A review published in the Australian Dental Journal, 2005
A piece of research published in the Australian Dental Journal in 2005 found that heavy users of marijuana generally had poorer overall oral health than non-users, owing to high plaque scores, less healthy gums and an increased risk of oral infections, tooth decay and periodontal disease.
Furthermore, the study also cited a condition unique to marijuana smokers, known as ‘cannabis stomatitis’, wherein the thin lining of cells around the mouth undergoes changes, leading to small chronic lesions in the tissues, which may increase the likelihood of developing oral cancers.]
The same study, however, noted that “present knowledge on the repercussions of marijuana on periodontal health is inadequate.”
A study published in the Journal of Periodontology, 2017
This study assessed 1938 patients on the basis of two metrics:
- Tooth Decay
- Probing Depth (an indicator of periodontitis)
The researchers concluded that both the metrics were significantly higher among frequent weed smokers. This study, however, has a few limitations such as not ruling out all other lifestyle factors, and lack of a proposed mechanism.
Just like with any other topic, a few studies found quite the opposite:
1 ) A year-long study conducted in 2011 found that only opiates significantly affected oral health.
2) Another study carried out in Chile in 2009 found that adolescents who admitted to smoking marijuana regularly showed no signs of periodontal disease.