Posted in Health, news

Marijuana Use Linked to Gum Disease

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:

Bleeding gums

Swollen gums

Tender gums

Gum recession making the teeth look longer

Bad breath

Pus and inflammation

Painful chewing


                                                                                                                                                                                                      Medical Spanish made easy

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician

Posted in Health, news

Flossing Each Day May Keep the Viagra Away…


For years we’ve known that gum disease, periodontitis, has been linked to heart disease and stroke.  Chronic inflammation in the mouth can incite inflammation that affects the major arteries and conversely, poor blood circulation could lead to diseased gums.  We’ve also known that erectile dysfunction (ED) could be a sign of heart disease. If blood vessels in the heart and brain are impaired due to cholesterol, diabetes and/or high blood pressure, why wouldn’t the genital circulation be affected?  Thus poor blood flow anywhere can be a sign of diseased vessels.  Subsequently, it was just a matter of time when the link between gum disease and ED would be investigated.




Researchers at the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University in China, led by Dr. Zhigang Zhao, analyzed multiple studies with thousands of participants and concluded that erectile dysfunction was 2.28X more common in men (including those under 40 and over 59 years old) if they were treated for periodontitis.


Dr. Zhao stated, “Since chronic periodontitis had been linked with several chronic disorders, it is sensible to recommend daily inter-dental cleaning to reduce dental plaque and gingival inflammation.”  Additionally he stated, “Chronic periodontitis treatment can control or eliminate inflammation and may reduce the risk of ED.”


In March of 2013, a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine discussed the same link but how Vitamin D deficiency may contribute to the ED.


To prevent gum disease, the American Academy of Periodontology recommends the following:

Brushing your teeth and tongue after meals


Flossing every day (I also like to add a water pick to flush out hard-to-reach food particles)



Swishing with mouthwash (though I recommend alcohol-free mouthwash)




Know your risk (age, smoking, diet and genetics) and discuss with your dentist

Get an annual comprehensive periodontal evaluation (CPE) from a dental professional.


Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network and Board Certified Family Physician