Marijuana has come a long way from being demonized as an illegal drug. Today, medical marijuana use is legal in 29 states and in Washington D.C. And as of November 2016, eight states made recreational marijuana use legal as well.
But despite its praises being sung by millions, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. And for all its purported medical benefits, there are still downsides to marijuana use which advocates conveniently fail to mention in most conversations about the drug. One such downside is the one uncovered by a recent Columbia University study that says frequent pot use doubles the risk for periodontitis, an infection that causes serious damage not only to gum tissue but to the bone that supports the teeth as well.
Frequent pot users show signs of periodontitis
The study, which was published in the Journal of Periodontology, the official publication of the American Academy of Periodontology, had 1,938 participants. All of them answered questions related to their marijuana use, and submitted themselves to a dental examination.
The researchers found out that the participants who used marijuana once or more in the month before the start of the study had a considerably higher likelihood of manifesting markers of periodontitis compared to those who smoked pot more frequently or didn’t use the drug in any way, shape, or form.
The study also looked at participants who didn’t smoke cigarettes or any tobacco product—which by themselves have an adverse effect on dental health—and the results are even more telling. Those who never used tobacco products but frequently used pot have double the risk of developing serious gum disease than participants who didn’t use cannabis or used it less often.
The people who conducted the study took a closer look at and measured the space between the teeth and the gum tissue of the participants to check for signs of periodontitis. Deeper pockets indicate the likelihood of periodontitis. The gums of periodontitis sufferers tend to swell, bleed, or recede. They are also likely to have bad breath, experience painful chewing, and have loose teeth.
The study, however, did not say anything about how marijuana use causes gum disease. It appears that the additional studies are needed to establish beyond any doubt the link between marijuana and gum problems.
Taking care of your gums
Whether you’re a marijuana user or not, taking proper care of your gums will always be of paramount importance. Aside from brushing correctly with a soft-bristled toothbrush twice a day, flossing, and using an antibacterial mouthwash, you can also try massaging your gums and performing mouth exercises.
Your diet also plays a huge role in your gum health. You would do well to cut back on, or better yet, eliminate sugar from your diet. Sugar, after all, leads to all kinds of dental issues—gum problems included—once it combines with the bacteria in your mouth. If you can eat more spinach, the better. It’s filled with beta-carotene which converts to vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant and immunity booster that should help protect your gums.
This is a guest post by Dr. Megan Peterson Boyle is a cosmetic dentist with Dental Studio 101 in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is focused on providing anxiety-free dental services, including sedation dentistry. She enjoys spending time outdoors and being around friends and family.