Over 50 million adults are estimated to use marijuana, a substance that’s still considered illegal
in much of the United States. Although this substance is thought by many to be safer than
smoking cigarettes or using other forms of tobacco, the truth is that marijuana still has negative
impacts on the body, including your smile.
What exactly is the impact of marijuana on dental health? Here’s how marijuana could be
harming your teeth and gums over time.
Increased Risk of Periodontal Disease
Similar to smoking cigarettes, smoking marijuana has been linked to gum disease. Research
shows a correlation between regular marijuana use and an increased risk of gum disease.
Higher rates of gum disease have been noted among people who use marijuana frequently, so
the more you use marijuana, the more likely you are to have gum disease. In addition, studies
have shown that gum disease may manifest earlier in life for marijuana users.
Although a causal link hasn’t been established, experts speculate that marijuana irritates the
soft tissues of the mouth and causes damage to the ligaments that help anchor the teeth in
place, making gum disease more likely.
Reduced Saliva Contributes to Tooth Decay
Marijuana dries out the oral cavity by reducing production of saliva. This leads to dry mouth,
which has been linked to tooth decay and chronic bad breath.
How does this happen? Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active component in marijuana,
inhibits salivary glands in the mouth from producing saliva. When saliva production is blocked,
the mouth quickly becomes dry.
A dry mouth typically has a lower pH, leading your oral cavity to be more acidic. Having a lower
pH increases the chances that tooth decay will occur, as harmful bacteria attack tooth enamel
and can erode it away.
Potentially Higher Risk of Oral Cancers
In some studies, marijuana has been linked to an increased risk of oral cancer. These cancers
include cancers of the mouth and neck. Research has been inconclusive when it comes to
marijuana and an increased cancer risk, but here’s what we do know.
Marijuana contains many of the same carcinogens as cigarettes. Marijuana smoke also contains
higher concentrations of these toxic chemicals than cigarettes. Ongoing research is needed, but
at this time, it’s best to be cautionary when it comes to marijuana and its known toxins.
Although not exactly a health impact of marijuana, marijuana smokers, just like tobacco
smokers, are more likely to have yellow teeth. Their teeth are more at risk to take on a yellow
or brown hue due to using this substance. By minimizing smoking or avoiding it altogether, you
can help your teeth remain white and free of deep staining.
When it comes to marijuana, we know that it’s been linked to a higher risk of periodontal
disease and is known for drying out the oral cavity, which can increase your risk for tooth
decay. Although the jury is still out on whether or not marijuana use increases your risk for oral
cancer, avoiding smoking or reducing your use can help you better maintain a healthy smile!