Cannabis and Oral Health Icon

With the legalization of Marijuana (Cannabis) and all of its derived products in Canada as of October 2018, comes a responsibility to understand the effects and side effects of this potent medication.

Cannabis has traditionally been smoked as Marijuana which has the most side effects. There are now many forms of it available that may mitigate some of the risks.

Effects of Cannabis

The consumption of cannabis, specially in the form of smoking, has been associated with poor oral health. The cause has been complicated by the number of factors associated with users, including high tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use; poor oral hygiene practices; and infrequent visits to dentists. 

One of the main effects of Cannabis is reduced overall secretions such as saliva which causes dry mouth (xerostomia). Xerostomia in turn increases incidence of cavities, gingivitis and oral cancer. THC, the main psychotropic agent in Cannabis, increases appetite which leads to a higher consumption of cariogenic snack consumption in its users. Cannabis users have a much higher incidence of cavities.

Other irritants in Marijuana smoke, are known to contribute to gingival enlargement (gingivitis), chronic inflammation of the gums, hyperkeratosis and consecutively a higher incidence of oral cancer. This risk appears to be higher in younger users. Cannabis also has immunosuppressive effects. This is specially true with HPV that causes herpes, oro-vaginal cancers, warts, etc and with candida that cause thrush and fungal infections.

There appears to be a direct link between periodontal diseases and cannabis use. Studies have found a deterioration in the rate of bone formation and attachment loss in frequent users compared to non-users which may be associated with other factors such as increased snacking, smoking and increased alcohol consumption as well

The effects of Cannabis on Oral Health

Effects of Cannabis on Oral Health

In summary, Cannabis usage has been linked to the following oral health implications:

  1. Dry Mouth
  2. Higher Incidence of Cavities
  3. Gingivitis, Periodontitis and Bleeding Gums
  4. Increased Risk of Cancers
  5. Interactions with Medications
  6. Increased Bleeding
  7. Faster Heart Rate and Anxiety
  8. Mental Confusion and Lack of Focus

Should I Consume Marijuana Before a Dental Appointment if I am anxious?

You might think it is a great idea to consume Cannabis before your dental appointment to help you with the anxiety associated with a dental appointment. The short answer is NO. Cannabis use actually increases your anxiety. At your dental appointment, we typically use epinephrine. The interaction between THC and epinephrine can be potentially life threatening. We understand that patients may be unwilling to report Cannabis usage to a medical practitioner but it is very important that you let us know if you have consumed Marijuana.

What Can I do to Reduce the oral side effects of Cannabis?

  1. Drink more water, use saliva substitute products. Ask us for more details.
  2. Try to use non-smoke forms of Marijuana such as oils, drops, etc.
  3. Have non-cariogenic (non-sugary, fat, protein and fiber rich) snacks ready for the munchies.
  4. Stick to regular professional hygiene visits which may include more regular fluoride therapies, more frequent scaling and tartar removal and customized oral hygiene care products.
  5. Avoid using alcohol-based mouth rinses.
  6. Avoid cannabis usage a week before and a few days after any dental procedures such as fillings, extractions, etc.

If you’re anxious or have any questions about Cannabis and oral health, ask one of our dental professionals how they can help you. Call us at 905-591-5599 for a free consultation today.