Gum disease and periodontal breakdown are widely considered as a disease of aging. However, with the changing oral habits of young adults, this dental problem has become a common oral health issue. Cannabis smoking is one of the most common oral habits adapted by young adults and middle-aged people. Cannabis is a mild sedative and a mood enhancer. It is widely used for its analgesic and antiemetic properties. Marijuana – the dried leaves of the cannabis plant is one of the most common forms of smoking adapted by around 13% of the American adults. (1)
The use of cannabis has been legalized in many states for medical and recreational purposes. However, prolonged dependency on marijuana can lead to chronic systemic health effects and oral health deterioration. Cannabis contains many carcinogens which are found in tobacco. The use of cannabis, particularly marijuana smoking, has shown poor quality of oral health. Some of the oral effects of cannabis smoking may include –
- Xerostomia or dry mouth
- Fungal infections
- Gum inflammation/enlargement
- Periodontal disease
A study at the American Medical Association reported a 60% risk of developing gum disease among heavy cannabis smokers at the age of 32 years. (2)
The relation between cannabis smoking and gum disease
Gum disease is a common chronic oral health problem, which if not treated, can extend deep into the dental tissues causing tooth loss. Tobacco smoking has been a long-recognized risk factor for the development of gum and periodontal disease. However, cannabis smoking has recently shown similar effects on oral tissues.
A study was conducted on 903 young adults in New Zealand. It revealed that 20% of the heavy cannabis smokers from the study group were three times more likely to have at least one gum site with evidence of advanced gum disease. (3)
Additionally, 60% of cannabis smokers showed evidence of mild gum disease. Infrequent cannabis users also showed evidence of gum disease as compared to non-users. Gum disease is caused by a bacterial inflammatory reaction, which can extend below the gum line and lead to periodontal breakdown. Some of the symptoms of periodontal disease may include swelling, irritation, and receding gums. Improper dental care can eventually lead to tooth and bone loss.
Cannabis smoking is one of the contributing factors for the development of gum disease. With the potential of causing dry mouth, poor oral hygiene in addition to carcinogenic elements, cannabis increases the risk of developing chronic gum disease among frequent users.
Those who suspect they have gum disease should immediately consult a dentist and educate themselves on the benefits of minimizing cannabis use. (4) Dental specialists can help to diagnose, treat, and prevent potential inflammatory gum disease from improving the oral health condition of the people.