Is there any oral health risk connected with marijuana use? The short answer is yes. In fact, several aspects of oral and general health may be impacted.
Periodontal disease risks
Studies of marijuana users have shown higher gum disease rates. One study found a tripling of the incidence of significant gum disease sites. There was also a big increase in the earliest signs of gum disease. These effects were attributed to pot use after other known risk factors were accounted for.
Tooth decay risks
Tooth decay is another impact linked to marijuana use. Both the prevalence and the severity of decay are much greater among pot users. The drug triggers neurotransmitters which produce cravings. Users try to satisfy such urges by consuming foods that promote tooth decay.
Cancer found in the head and neck has been shown to be over 2.5 times as likely among marijuana users. This effect is in addition to those from other risk factors such as tobacco and alcohol use. Because of riskier behaviors when under the influence of marijuana, HIV infection has also been found higher among users.
Discoloration of teeth
The substances in marijuana contribute to the buildup of greenish-brown tartar on the teeth. This makes the appearance of the teeth unappealing. Removal of these unsightly deposits is more difficult for the dental team.
General health risks
Unfortunately, public awareness that marijuana poses oral and systemic health risks is far lower than awareness of tobacco risks. The general health risks include:
- Difficulty with paying attention and learning
- Difficulty with distinguishing oneself from another person
- Decreased interest in finishing tasks
- Diminished ability to execute tasks requiring coordination
- Anxiety and feelings of panic
- Paranoia and excessive fear
- Delusions, hallucinations, and delirium
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate (increasing risk for cardiac arrest up to 4.8 fold within the first hour after smoking marijuana, according to research)
- Irritated airways, resulting in spasms or narrowing
- A weakened immune system
- Lung disease
- Bloodshot eyes
- Sore throat, cough, hoarse voice, and increased phlegm production
- Violent reactions (particularly if the marijuana is laced with PCP)
- Withdrawal symptoms, such as insomnia, irritability, anorexia, and agitation
- Dependence and addiction (it’s estimated that 9 percent of users will become dependent, reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse)
For these reasons, we have an interest in honestly inquiring about marijuana use (as well as other substances such as nutritional supplements and herbal medicines). This is a part of our health history and oral examination process for both current and new patients. Our intent is not to violate your privacy. To provide you with the best dental care we can, it’s vital that we confidentially assess your risks, including marijuana usage.
For more information on oral health and marijuana use, see https://digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/bitstream/2440/16775/3/Cho_gen_v50n22005.pdf