How many American adults have tried marijuana at least one time in their life? While statistics vary, the number for the “at least one time” group is over fifty percent. Almost 55 million American adults are “current users” meaning they have used it at least once or twice in the last calendar year. What about “regular users?” The group of people who say they use marijuana at least one or two times per month is close to 35 million people in the U.S.
That number, 55 million people who use marijuana every year, means that there are almost as many cannabis users as there are tobacco smokers, of which there are 59 million. 8 million Americans use marijuana on a daily, or near daily, basis. With recreational marijuana smoking now legal in California and other states, these numbers may yet go higher.
What does all this information on pot smoking have to do with a dental blog? Plenty, because just like all other habits people choose – whether to smoke or chew tobacco, what to eat and drink, when to brush and floss, and how often to see their dentist – using marijuana potentially has an impact on your dental health. While not prying into your personal life, we are interested in what’s happening inside your mouth. Being honest with your dentist about your use of any substance — cigarettes, chewing tobacco, recreational drugs, or sucking on lemon wedges — gives us the information we need to monitor your dental health and counteract common problems.
Nevertheless, many operate under the assumption that smoking marijuana is somehow less damaging to oral health than smoking tobacco. In the interest of having informed patients, the following are some of the many effects that marijuana smoking has on dental health.
Xerostomia, or dry mouth, is a very common side effect of marijuana use. Saliva not only helps us digest our food better, it is essential to a healthy mouth. It aids in preventing tooth decay because it neutralizes the acids produced by bacteria and washes away food particles, thus reducing the formation of cavities. Food tastes better with a healthy amount of saliva, and makes chewing, swallowing and talking much easier. It also provides minerals needed to repair teeth of minor decay.
Cannabis is a completely natural substance, but then again, so are tobacco leaves and betel nut. They all contain strong chemicals that in time cause cellular changes in the gums, tongue and throat. Marijuana has a higher concentration of cancer-causing substances than cigarettes. And because pot smokers tend to inhale deeper and keep the smoke in their lungs longer, the mouth and mucous membranes are exposed to more of these cancer-producing agents.
Gum disease is an insidious enemy for not only the health of your teeth, but to your general health as well. When oral bacteria flourish in your mouth and along your gumline, the tissue surrounding and protecting your teeth and jaw becomes inflamed. Your gums pull back, or recede, from your teeth, leaving them exposed to further damage. Gum disease is common among users of both tobacco and marijuana, but in its early stages is entirely treatable.
Lifestyle Affects Dental Health
Any substance that increases feelings of euphoria or leads to relaxation – whether prescription medications, illegal drugs, alcohol or marijuana – potentially damages dental health. Taking care of teeth takes time, effort and diligence. Brushing, flossing, rinsing, keeping dental appliances such as mouthguards, retainers, partials or dentures clean and bacteria-free, and being prompt about seeing a dentist take work and a measure of effort! We need to be on our game to take care of our teeth, not to mention the teeth of our children and teenagers. Keeping the care of our teeth a priority is one of the best choices we make, adding years to our smile and general well-being.
The staff at Sacramento Dentistry Group wants you to have the best dental health possible. That’s why we check for oral cancers during your exam, look for the signs of gum disease, examine the health of your teeth and check for conditions such as dry mouth. And no matter what your personal habits, we always encourage regular brushing, flossing and dental checkups, including a cleaning every six months or so. Rest assured, what happens inside the Sacramento Dentistry Group will always be the best choice you make to preserve your smile for years and years to come.