Smoking cannabis has become so common in India that one can find rolling papers at almost every cigarette shop. Interestingly, according to a study conducted by Seedo, Delhi and Mumbai feature in the world’s list of top ten cities that consume the most cannabis. Globally, cannabis consumption has now become so accepted that giants like Coca Cola are considering creating cannabis infused drinks for the wellness industry. Of course, we are not here to debate on whether smoking marijuana should be legal in India! We are here to talk about the effects of cannabis on oral health.
Effects of Cannabis on Oral Health:
Cannabis has many effects on oral health. These range from mild problems to severe issues. Some of the common effects of cannabis on oral health include the following:
Xerostomia or Dry Mouth:
Often ignored by patients, Xerostomia is a serious condition that lead to a host of health problems. It is mainly associated with salivary gland hypofunction. Some of the main symptoms of this condition include:
- Trouble with swallowing or chewing
- Trouble with tasting food or speaking
- A dry and sticky feeling in the back of the mouth
- A sore or dry throat
- Roughness and dryness experienced on the tongue
- Infections in the mouth
- Cracked, peeling and atrophic lips due to lack of moisture
- Bad breath
- Altered sense of taste or a new found intolerance towards spicy, salty or sour foods
When left untreated, Xerostomia can lead to many complications such as:
- Dental caries
- Plaque accumulation
- Periodontal disease
- Oral candidiasis
- Enlarged salivary glands
- Traumatic oral lesions
- Angular cheillitis
Periodontal disease refers to any infection that may occur around the structures of the teeth. This includes infections in the gums, alveolar bone, periodontal ligament, and cementum. Many studies have linked higher chances of periodontal disease developing in cannabis users. Furthermore, they have also noted that periodontal disease occurs at an earlier age in people who smoke cannabis when compared to people who do not. Some of the symptoms of periodontal disease include:
- Bleeding gums, especially during or after brushing teeth
- Persistent bad breath
- An odd taste in the mouth that does not go away
- Red, tender, and swollen gums
- Deep pocket formation between teeth and gums
- Shifting teeth or loose teeth
- Receding gums
- Changes in the bite or the fit of prosthetics
Periodontal disease is extremely serious. Unchecked periodontal disease can lead to many different health complications such as:
- Heart disease and atherosclerosis: Plaque formation at the gumline is quite dangerous as bits of hardened plaque can enter the blood vessels and stick to their walls, clogging them up. This can lead to cardiovascular concerns like atherosclerosis and heart disease.
- Stroke: Hardened plaque does not always have to stick to the walls of the blood vessels. It can also end up roaming freely in the blood stream. This is extremely dangerous as it can cause a stroke.
- Premature births: Pregnant women suffering from periodontal disease are at a higher risk for having a premature birth. Moreover, they are also at a higher risk for having a baby with low birth weight.
- Diabetes: Diabetes and periodontal disease are linked closely. Diabetics who suffer from periodontal disease have a higher risk of not controlling their glycemic index, which can lead to a host of health complications like nerve damage, kidney damage and heart problems.
- Respiratory disease – The bacteria in the oral cavity that causes periodontal disease can also cause respiratory illnesses like lung infections. It can be the main cause for severe pneumonia too.
Should You Tell Your Dentist About Your Cannabis Use?
Dental practitioners can gauge the extent of oral damage and link it to cannabis use. In order to provide comprehensive treatment, they often ask their patients if they smoke marijuana. In this case, it is essential for users to let their doctors know how often they smoke because doctors can then offer preventative measures that in line with the patient’s usage. Without the same, patients can be at risk for recurrent oral health problems due to marijuana.
Often, frequent users also pose problems during check-ups. They may feel paranoid or may be forgetful while talking about their symptoms or problems. Having a clear head and being able to describe your health concerns accurately goes a long way in helping doctors reach an accurate diagnosis. If you are a cannabis user, do not be afraid to tell your doctors – they will not throw you in jail. Furthermore, if you indulge in any other lifestyle habits like smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol frequently, let your health care providers know so that they do not prescribe medicines that may have counter effects.
Are There Any Preventative Steps That You Should Be Taking?
There are many steps that patients can take in order to prevent oral problems. Some of these steps include the following:
- Stop smoking: Tobacco is one of the main causes of periodontal diseases. In fact, people who smoke cigarettes and joints are 7 times more likely than others to develop periodontal disease. Furthermore, smoking can also affect the effectiveness of certain treatments and medications.
- Reduce stress: While cannabis users are rarely stressed due to the effects of being stoned, seeking out joints is a way to combat stress. Stress makes it quite hard for your immune system to fight off any infections. However, if you think that being stoned can combat this effect of stress (because it makes you feel less stressed and more relaxed), then think again! Cannabis is an immunosuppressant, which means that it does not allow the immune system to do its job. This is why many stoners are at-risk for oral candidiasis and oral papillovirus, which increases the risk of oral cancer too.
- Avoid clenching or grinding your teeth: You may be clenching or grinding your teeth when working or thinking of something emotional. You may also end up doing so when your body reacts to certain drugs, like Ecstasy. Doing so ruins the health of your teeth and makes you more susceptible to oral health problems.
- Indulge in a well-balanced diet: Proper nutrition helps you in many ways. It can help you fight off a range of infections, including oral health ones.
Smoking cannabis can lead to a range of oral health problems that can further put you at risk for heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage and more. It is essential to be aware of the effects of cannabis on oral health and stay away from illegal drugs.