By: Dr. Heather Hradek
Marijuana use is coming up more and more in conversation and its use is increasing as statewide legalization spreads across the nation. Many consider cannabis a healthier alternative to other mind-altering substances available, alcohol or tobacco particularly- after all, it’s been approved for medical uses- but is it safe?
Dope has earned a place in the medical community for its uses as an anti-emetic as well as an appetite stimulant for patients with cancer or AIDS as well as a pain and spasm reducer in a number of chronic conditions; however the research about reefer as a therapeutic medication is still in its infancy since the legal as well as social acceptance has only grown recently. What does this mean for the public health community? We acknowledge that there is benefit to this drug as a medicine, but just as with all medications, side effects exist that we must recognize and learn more about.
The most common use of pot has typically been through smoking, which unfortunately leads to many of the same respiratory issues as smoking tobacco. Weed still contains many of the same carcinogens as tobacco. From a dental standpoint, smoking Mary Jane is associated with gum enlargement and increased presence of red or white spot lesions that can develop into malignant lesions. There is an increased risk of oral and neck cancer in patients who smoke both tobacco and wacky tobacky, and unfortunately, the risk and aggressiveness of cancers associated with the devil’s lettuce are higher in younger users.
The use of Gangja has been associated with poor oral health, particularly with xerostomia, or dry mouth, which can increase the risk of cavities. Cottonmouth is a result of the cannabinoids interfering with the production of saliva. Saliva is important to help the body wash away bacteria and food from gums and teeth– without it, acids remain on the teeth and eat away the enamel. The main psychotropic agent, THC, is an appetite stimulant, so when the munchies hit, the user often reaches for sweet snack foods or drinks that cause cavities and might be too relaxed to make brushing a priority. Edibles, gummy bears, chocolates, or brownies laced with THC, are often laden with sugar, which also can promote dental cavities.
Several studies have shown a direct relationship between the grass and periodontal disease, showing significantly higher rates of periodontal disease among herb users vs non users, with significantly higher numbers of sites with high probing depths and bone loss.
If you partake in the dank broccoli prior to a dental visit, it’s important to inform your dentist, as its use can lead to increased heart rate and other cardio-respiratory effects which are only heightened with use of local anesthetic for numbing for dental treatment. Frequent use of the chronic is associated with a threefold increase of risk of death from hypertension. Your dental professional will also recommend regular dental visits and oral care and increased use of preventative measures, such as fluoride varnish application and choosing healthy, nutritious snacks instead of sweet snacks when the munchies hit.
For more information, please visit: https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/cannabis
Chesterton Family Dental is the general dental office of Dr. Mystie Pieters, Dr. Heather Hradek, and Dr. Robert Pieters providing comprehensive dental care for the entire family.