As Marijuana Use More Mainstream, Users Should Be Familiar With Oral Repercussions

As a dentist, I have a commitment to the health and well-being of each patient’s smile. Whether my patient has healthy natural teeth or has experienced tooth loss and/or other problems, I respect the need and choices of each individual. After all, once in our office, we have the potential to work together so they can achieve healthy smiles for a lifetime.

Our patients are very familiar with how carefully we update their medical and dental histories with each visit. It’s very important to know a person’s ‘whole health’ so we can ensure their oral health is supporting overall health. That’s why we urge patients to update us on their medications and dosages, any new health issues and medical treatments that may effect dental treatment.

One example of this is for people who take blood thinners. Because this can also create more bleeding of the gums during dental procedures, knowing this in advance helps us to keep bleeding to a minimum while taking steps for better healing afterward.

We are also careful to keep up with issues that may be sensitive to patients when it comes to their oral wellness, even some they feel are unrelated. For example, Marijuana use.

Marijuana (or cannabis) delivers an ingredient known as THC (tetrahydro-cannabinol). There is a wide range of THC potency between different cannabis products. Over recent years, a growing number of states have legalized Marijuana for personal use as well as for medicinal purposes.cannibis

The most beneficial use of marijuana is its effectiveness on nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy as well as easing intra-ocular pressure associated with glaucoma. Other uses are for:

• Muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis
• Poor appetite and weight loss caused by chronic illness (from HIV, nerve pain, etc.)
• Seizure disorders
• Crohn’s disease

Yet, although gaining wider acceptance, Marijuana is not without risks. Heavy marijuana use has been related to respiratory and bronchial problems, abdominal cramps, rapid heart beat, diarrhea, panic, paranoia, loss of short-term memory and motor skill impairment.

As a dentist, I am also witness to how Marijuana use can lead to oral problems. In addition to contributing to ‘dry mouth’ (which increases the risk of developing gum disease), it can  lead to a higher number of cavities as well as cause gum irritation, swelling and inflammation of the oral tissues.

To date, a some studies have shown a correlation between marijuana use and greater risks for periodontal disease. In October 2016, the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) published a report on “Relationship Between Frequent Recreational Cannabis (Marijuana and Hashish) Use & Periodontitis in Adults in the U.S.”

As part of the National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey (2011-2012), this study was administered by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) in collaboration with the AAP. Data on adults between ages 30 – 59 was assessed with measurements of gum ‘pocket depths’ to show levels of gum disease. As a result, frequent users (at least once a month for a year) showed measurably higher levels of gum disease than non-frequent users. (

Although some marijuana users do so for at-home, personal relaxation and others use for medicinal purposes, it is not my place to judge but to help patients keep their teeth and gums healthy. When there are green stains on teeth, calculus buildup, gingival overgrowth and gum tissues that have an orange peel appearance, it may reveal regular marijuana use.

However, it may not. If so, it’s up to the patient to feel comfortable with us to share this so we can help them be proactive when it comes to their smile. Once the conversation is started, it allows us to tailor individual dental care to meet the challenges that compromise oral health that supports your overall health.

I had a friend who had toe nail fungus but spent years in loafers, too embarrassed to tell his doctor to get medication to resolve the problem. Once he finally had the conversation, however, the problem was soon taken care of and he was back in flip flops!

Never be shy about sharing anything you feel may be related to your health status since your oral health may very well be affected. Let’s work together for a terrific smile that is worry-free and makes a positive impression on others.

Call 910-254-4555 for an appointment.

This entry was posted in cavities, Cavity repair, Dental Care in Wilmington, Dental Hygiene Cleanings & Check-Ups, dry mouth, Gum Disease, New patients, Oral Health & Wellness, Tooth Loss, Tooth Repair, Tooth Replacement, Wilmington Dentist. Bookmark the permalink.

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