My goal in this post is not to take a stand for or against the use of marijuana. I also do not intend for this to create a discussion for or against, but to be a means to share facts and information. The connection between smoking tobacco and periodontal disease has been greatly studied and is much more understood than before. It is known that smoking tobacco causes an increase in the inflammatory response in the body including the gums. There is also a decrease in blood flow to the gum tissue that is seen in tobacco smokers. Tobacco smoking causes an increased risk for patients to suffer from periodontal disease- which causes loss of bone support around the teeth and can lead to premature tooth loss.
It is now being understood that smoking marijuana can also stimulate similar inflammatory pathways and can lead to similar periodontal issues. Smoking marijuana is now considered a significant potential risk factor in the severity of periodontal disease. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2011-2012 found that of the participants surveyed, the cannabis users exhibited deeper pocket depths (this means more severe bone loss), higher attachment loss, and greater odds of having severe periodontitis.
Another known side effect of smoking cannabis is the severe dry mouth (xerostomia) that is caused. Saliva is a critical element in the mouth that help to cleanse the teeth and decrease the rate of decay. Patients who suffer from dry mouth often have an increased rate of decay due to the saliva not being present to clean the teeth. This means that patients who are smoking marijuana are also at an increased risk for decay.
As the use of marijuana continues to increase for medical and recreational purposes in the United States, it is important for patients to be aware of the possible side effects that it can cause to the mouth and teeth. As with everything in medicine- all things are considered based on the risk and benefits that they provide.