Because marijuana is being legalized in some states, its use has increased. While it has been shown to have some positive medical effects in the literature, we have noted significant negative effects on oral health in frequent users.
Cannabis (which is also known as marijuana, weed, grass, pot, dope, or hash) is a cannabinoid drug. It mostly attaches itself to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and body.
These receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system of the central nervous system and are responsible for most physiological processes in the body like appetite, sleep, memory, mood, and pain. Basically, users get sedative and mood-enhancing effects when using cannabis for recreational purposes. In medical applications, it helps to prevent and relieve nausea.
How Cannabis Affects Oral Health
The negative effects of cannabis are seen when you smoke it, just like in the case of smoking tobacco. Consistent cannabis smokers are prone to gum inflammation and diseases. The distinct effect of cannabis on oral health has not been fully determined; this is because most cannabis smokers are also chronic tobacco smokers and alcohol drinkers.
Therefore, it is a bit difficult to place the effects categorically. Researchers are still undergoing further studies to determine the real effects of cannabis on oral health. Regardless, the following are common with most cannabis smokers:
The heat absorbed when smoking cannabis irritates the gums and may lead to sensitivity, swelling, and bleeding. The smoke from marijuana, just like tobacco smoke, contains some harmful carcinogens that can cause gum damage. This is the reason marijuana smokers need to be extra careful to prevent periodontal disease and gingivitis.
One of the most predominant effects of cannabis on oral health is “munchies.” Marijuana smokers have a tendency to be careless with their choice of food. They go for processed foods and sugary drinks that are known to contribute to weak cavities and tooth decays. This is why there is a high percentage of cannabis smokers have caries. Marijuana smokers get hungry easily and consume all sorts of junk food.
Xerostomia is another common experience witnessed by cannabis smokers. It is widely known as “cotton mouth or dry mouth,” and is caused by the dysfunction of the salivary glands. The THC in cannabis sends signals to the endocannabinoid receptor of the central nervous system to reduce the production of saliva when you’re smoking cannabis. Saliva is essential for having good oral health because it helps to flush out bacteria, break down food, prevent bad breath, slow down tooth decay, and prevent a high build-up of plaque.
After a long period of consistently smoking marijuana, your teeth get stained from the smoke. Even if you maintain good oral hygiene, you’ll still notice the stains on your teeth from the smoke. Your best solution could be a teeth-whitening treatment.
Increased Levels of Bacteria
Marijuana smokers are likely to have cavity-causing bacteria in their mouths. Recent studies revealed that the smoke from marijuana attacks the immune system in the mouth and increases your chances of having higher levels of bacteria in mouth cavities.