It’s true: heavy cannabis use could make your teeth fall out. Gum disease is a terrible thing. And now, scientists are linking gum disease to heavy, long-term cannabis use.
Gum disease is an infection of the tissue that keeps your mouth healthy and holds your teeth securely in place. Weaken or damage those tissues, and it’s not just your health that’s at risk: you could lose some of your pearly whites.
So what’s the link between heavy cannabis use and gum disease?
Interestingly, the answer has nothing to do with anything in the cannabis itself. The smoke doesn’t harm your gums more than any other kind of smoking (not much).
The problem is that regular cannabis users are themselves less likely to take care of their teeth. The study found that long-term, steady weed smokers simply brushed and flossed their teeth less often.
- Study looked at 1,000 people who had used cannabis or tobacco daily
- It linked smoking marijuana to severe gum disease or ‘periodontitis’
- Periodontitis affects tissues that support teeth and holds them in place
- Previous research has linked cannabis use to bronchitis and cancer
Because of that fact, the study found that over two decades, regular marijuana users had more dental problems and gum disease.
This latest study was conducted on 1,000 people from New Zealand who either used or smoked cannabis from age 18 to 38 and whose health was tracked from birth. The results support previous studies, which also found that regular weed smokers brushed and flossed less often, resulting in periodontitis.
What is Periodontitis (Gum Disease)?
- Gum disease is a very common condition where the gums become swollen, sore or infected.
- Most adults have gum disease to some degree, and most people experience it at least once. It’s much less common in children.
- Symptoms include bleeding gums when brushing the teeth and can lead to bad breath.
- This early stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis.
- If gingivitis isn’t treated, a condition called periodontitis can develop.
- This affects more tissues that support teeth and holds them in place.
- If periodontitis isn’t treated, the bone in the jaw may be damaged, and small spaces can open up between the gum and teeth.
- Teeth can become loose and may eventually fall out.
Source: NHS Choices
Regular smokers were also more dependent on alcohol, another factor which affects gum health.
What’s interesting is that gum disease is the only set of physical health problems in early midlife that has been associated with regular, long-term cannabis use.
The study also offered a few other conclusions related to cannabis and health. For one, cannabis use over 20 years won’t affect your metabolism much. And it is associated with accidents, injuries, bronchitis, and poorer psychological and mental health outcomes, according to the study.
One of the limitations of the report, however, was that cannabis use was self-reported by those involved in the study.
And in February, yet another study found that people who smoked cannabis for a long time, five years or more, had poorer verbal memory in middle age than individuals who didn’t smoke, or at least smoked less.
These studies contribute to the growing medical literature on cannabis, and shows the push and pull regarding benefits and risks associated with cannabis use over the long term.