Researchers at Columbia University found that recreational cannabis use could increase the risk for gum disease. The researchers studied the link between frequent marijuana and hashish use and periodontal issues for adults in the U.S.
“It is well known that frequent tobacco use can increase the risk of periodontal disease, but it was surprising to see that recreational cannabis users may also be at risk,” Jaffer Shariff, lead author of the study, said in a press release. “The recent spate of new recreational and medical marijuana laws could spell the beginning of a growing oral public health problem.”
Gum disease is a reaction to a bacterial infection below the gum line in which the gum becomes inflamed. Untreated, the disease can cause receding gums and tooth loss as well as a wide variety of other health issues.
The study took data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Periodontology classification systems were used to analyze the gum disease.
The study included 1,938 participants and 26.8 percent were self-reported, frequent recreational cannabis users. The participants reported using cannabis one or more times for at least 12 months.
Participants underwent periodontal exams that analyzed patients’ gum tissue, plaque, inflammation, bleeding and gum recession. Cannabis users had more frequent sites of pocket depths, areas where deep spaces occur between the tooth and gum tissue.
The study found that frequent, recreational cannabis use was associated with deeper pocket depths, more clinical attachment loss and higher odds of having severe periodontitis.
“Even controlling for other factors linked to gum disease, such as cigarette smoking, frequent recreational cannabis smokers are twice as likely as non-frequent users to have signs of periodontal disease,” said Shariff, a postdoctoral resident in periodontology at Columbia University School of Dental Medicine. “While more research is needed to determine if medical marijuana has a similar impact on oral health, our study findings suggest that dental care providers should ask their patients about cannabis habits.”
Gum disease has been linked to non-oral health issues from preterm labor during pregnancy to heart disease. Terrence J. Griffin, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, said people should know the effects smoking marijuana has on their teeth.
“At a time when the legalization of recreational and medical marijuana is increasing its use in the United States, users should be made aware of the impact that any form of cannabis can have on the health of their gums,” Griffin said.
The study was first published in the Journal of Periodontology. Co-authors were Kavita P. Ahluwalia and Panos N. Papapanou.
Tori Linville is a freelance writer and editor from Clarksville, Tennessee. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she’s faithfully watching her alma mater, the University of Alabama, dominate the football field.