How Marijuana Use Increases Your Risk of Gum Disease

On Tuesday, November 8, California voters approved Proposition 64, legalizing recreational marijuana use across the state. With easier access to the drug, Californians 21 and older must consider the effects of using cannabis—including increased health risks, such as periodontal disease.

According to a study featured in the Journal of Periodontology, people who use marijuana regularly “demonstrate increased indicators of mild, moderate, and severe gum disease.”

What is gum disease?

Periodontal disease is characterized by infections around your teeth, including the gums, alveolar bone, and periodontal ligament. While gum disease can settle in without pain, you can identify it early if you notice inflammation in the gum line or other symptoms such as receding gums, persistent bad breath, trouble chewing, loose teeth, and sensitive teeth or gums.

The most common known cause of gum disease is bacteria found the plaque that forms on your teeth. If plaque is not cleaned properly, it hardens into tartar—which cannot be removed by brushing and flossing. By keeping up with your dentist’s or hygienist’s recommended dental cleaning schedule, you can reduce your plaque buildup, and in turn, minimize your risk of developing periodontal complications.

How is marijuana use connected to gum disease?

A common indicator of periodontal disease is the space between your teeth and their surrounding gum tissue. These “pocket depths” often tell dentists how likely patients are to develop periodontal disease. For example, healthy gum tissue fits closely around your teeth.

The study mentioned above found that marijuana users tend to have larger “pocket depths” than non-users, leaving users more exposed to bacterial infection—and more vulnerable to gum disease. Any sensitivity around your gums may be a cause for concern.

“At a time when the decriminalization of marijuana use is becoming more common in the U.S.,” says Dr. Terrence J. Griffin, president of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), “users should be made aware of the impact that any form of cannabis can have on the health of their gums.”

During your next check-up, be sure to notify your dentist of all risk factors, including regular marijuana use. Exquisite Dentistry advises against all smoking for the reasons outlined above, and we encourage you to come in for a cancer screening if you feel you are at risk. To learn more about how you can prevent periodontal disease, please reach out today to schedule an appointment!