Image above from Periopeak
While one study this week found a marijuana compound to help combat deadly seizures, another study found it to increase gum disease.
Periodontal, or gum disease, is caused by inflammation of the gum. Contributing factors include bacteria, poor dental hygiene, smoking, diabetes, hormonal changes, medications that decrease saliva, and even genetics. Gingivitis, an earlier and milder stage, occurs when bacteria and plaque buildup around the teeth causing the gums to become swollen and red. If this doesn’t resolve, periodontitis can occur leading to recession of the gum, loss of teeth, and damage to the ligaments and bone. Gum disease has additionally been linked to diabetes and heart disease.
Published in the Journal of Periodontology, the study found recreational smokers of cannabis were twice as likely to have gum disease as opposed to less frequent users.
Dr. Jaffer Sharrif, a postdoctoral resident in periodontology at Columbia University School of Dental Medicine (CDM), and his colleagues examined the data from 1,938 U.S. adults who participated in the CDC’s 2011-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. 27% admitted to smoking marijuana in the last year and their gums were evaluated for deep pockets. Health gums snuggly surround a tooth, hence gums with deep pockets (measured deeper than 3mm) could suggest inflammation or diseased gum.
The frequent marijuana users had more gum sites with deeper pockets.
So the deeper pockets not only signal that gum disease is happening but could also worsen the disease by allowing more food and bacteria to be come trapped around the tooth.
One explanation for this could be saliva secretion decreases when cannabinoid receptors are activated. This was reported in 2006 when researchers wanted to investigate why saliva decreases with marijuana use. Less saliva, means less “cleaning” of the gums and teeth. Moreover, the saliva with its basic pH neutralizes some of the acid produced by bacteria colonizing the gums.
The gum disease-marijuana link could also be due to the poor diet high in sugar that is sometimes associated with the “marijuana munchies”.
Dr. Shariff stated, “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.”
Signs of periodontitis include:
Gum recession making the teeth look longer
Pus and inflammation