Is Marijuana Bad for my Teeth?
With Marijuana now legalized in Alberta, we as Dentists are likely to see more patients being open about their usage of Marijuana. By being more open and accepted, we are able to offer more personalized recommendations. There has been an explosion in Marijuana Retailers in Grande Prairie as of my writing this (June 2020), so being a Dentist in Grande Prairie, I decided to write a blog post about its effects on the mouth.
So, what is the difference between the two? Typically, Dental Veneers and Dental Implants are used for different reasons. This all depends on how much damage a patient has to their teeth.
Marijuana itself will not cause cavities, however, the colloquial ‘cotton mouth’ or the feeling of extreme dryness (xerostomia) when partaking in Marijuana will certainly contribute to cavities… and therefore more fillings. Our mouth needs to neutralize any acids and our saliva is one of the ways we can neutralize it. By having a decreased saliva flow for an extended amount of time, that will heavily increase the risk of cavities. Combine that with the feeling of hunger that comes after smoking Marijuana (“Munchies”) and you have a mouth that is less prepared to protect itself against cavities. The increased appetite can lead to eating highly sugary foods, which in turn can cause cavities.
There are scattered reports of increased gum size with marijuana usage. Rates of gum disease (gingivitis) are reported to be higher in youths that smoke marijuana as compared to youths that do not. There are many factors that are involved here, so marijuana usage itself may not be the direct reason that gum disease could be higher.
One of our greatest concerns as dental health professionals is oral cancer, which we screen for during all of our exams. Marijuana that is smoked releases many aromatic hydrocarbons, benzopyrene, and nitrosamines. These are known carcinogens and they are released in higher numbers in marijuana smoke compared to tobacco smoke. My recommendation would be to not smoke marijuana, instead partake in other methods.
What can be done asides from not using Marijuana?
Since Marijuana has been legalized in Canada, we have been flooded with questions about its usage and benefits or affects to health. Now that it is legal, we can expect to see some high-quality studies released sometime in the future. While we are waiting on studies to be completed that look specifically at all these factors, there are some good recommendations that can be given.
- Avoid smoking Marijuana to protect your mouth from oral cancer (and your lungs from other forms of cancer), consider some alternative methods of usage such as edibles.
- Drink lots of water when using Marijuana. This will help keep your mouth at a lower risk for cavities.
- Plan for eating foods in advance that are not high in sugars.
- Continue to brush your teeth twice a day and floss once. If you are particularly forgetful when you partake, then either do it beforehand or set a reminder on your phone.
If you have further questions about Marijuana and its effects on oral health, come talk to me, Dr. Beeson, your Dentist in Grande Prairie!