Making informed oral health decisions Using cannabis and protecting your oral health

DR. WILLIAM CHIN

As the federal government moves to legalize cannabis, some patients have asked about the impact of cannabis consumption on oral health. My goal as a general dentist is to provide my patients and the public with reliable, caring, and practical information so people can make the best health decisions for themselves.

Some evidence suggests smoking cannabis can lead to dry mouth, which can prompt other complications such as tooth decay and periodontal disease. In addition, the main psychotropic agent of cannabis is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), an appetite stimulant, motivating some users to eat sugary foods that may cause cavities, especially if eaten without an appropriate oral hygiene routine.

Some articles have indicated smoking cannabis can lead to gum enlargement  (Joshi & Ashley, 2016), prolonged mouth inflammation which can cause abnormal tissue growth (Cho, Hirsch & Johnstone, 2005), and—when combined with smoking cigarettes—increased risk of oral and neck cancer (Zhang, Morgenstern, Spitz, et. al, 1999).

I’ve also had questions about using cannabis before dental appointments to help relax. I advise against doing so. Legal issues are at play relating to informed consent, especially when a dental visit often includes irreversible procedures such as extractions. If you are anxious about your dental visit, other ways to put yourself at ease include weighted blankets, nitrous oxide, sedation, or discussing a procedure with your dentist beforehand.

How does one consume cannabis in an oral health-friendly manner? For optimum oral health, my advice is to abstain from or limit smoking cannabis. For those that partake, establish a strong oral hygiene routine including regular brushing, flossing, and having healthy “go to” snacks available (such as fresh fruit and vegetables). Visit your dentist regularly to be checked for signs of tooth decay, periodontal disease, and oral cancer.

Your dentist can also help with preventative measures such as a topical fluoride varnish, which helps to re-mineralize teeth and keep them healthy. Finally, combat dry mouth by using a saliva-stimulating mouth rinse such as Biotene or chewing sugar-free gum which prompts the mouth to produce its own saliva.

Talk to your dentist about the impacts of cannabis consumption on your oral health and come up with a plan that will work for your needs and lifestyle.  


References

Joshi S, Ashley M. Cannabis: A joint problem for patients and the dental profession. Br Dent J 2016;220(11):597-601.

 

Cho, C., Hirsch, R. & Johnstone, S. (2005), General and oral health implications of cannabis use. Australian Dental Journal, 50: 70-74.

 

Zhang Z-F, Morgenstern H, Spitz MR, et al. Marijuana use and increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers 1999;8 (12):1071-78.


Featured Image: Dr. William Chin owns Norwood Dental Centre. | Rebecca Lippiatt

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