Marijuana & Effects on Oral Health

More and more states are legalizing marijuana for medicinal and/or recreational purposes these days. Now that marijuana is being used by more widely, we are likely to learn more about the negative effects. Here is what we presently know about marijuana and oral health (teeth and gums).

One thing that can happen while smoking marijuana is “cotton mouth,” which is a dry mouth (Xerostomia) caused by under-functioning salivary glands. The THC in marijuana sends signals to nerve receptors to limit saliva. Your mouth needs saliva to break down food, prevent high levels of plaque, flush bacteria out, slow down tooth decay and help prevent bad breath. Drinking water throughout the day will help you stop dry mouth.

Marijuana is famously known to cause the “munchies.” If people consume eat food and drinks that have high levels of sugar, that can lead to tooth decay and cavities. Dentists often see a higher rate of tooth decay in marijuana users.  Try to avoid sugary snacks and drinks that feed bacteria in your mouth and lead to plaque. Switch to teeth-healthy options. 

Smoking marijuana can also lead to swelling, bleeding and sensitivity of the gums. This happens when the heat of the smoke is inhaled. People who smoke need to take extra special care of their gums. 

Marijuana smokers may also find their teeth get stained over time. Even with good oral hygiene and dentist visits, discoloration is still likely to happen. Marijuana users may want to consider getting professional teeth whitening from a dentist. It’s also been suggested in some studies that marijuana smoke suppresses the immune system in the mouth, which helps fight infection.

If you smoke marijuana, you should brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste or even a prescription-strength toothpaste. You should also floss your teeth and gums daily. You can remove the sticky film left by marijuana by gargling a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with 8 ounces of warm water. Also, try brushing your teeth right after smoking.

While many negative oral effects are caused by smoking marijuana, edible marijuana products may be a good alternative to protect your oral health. Also, you could try using topical marijuana ointments such as CBD oil, which will not make you feel high.

If you regularly smoke marijuana, be sure to tell your dentist. It’s important to be open about your lifestyle, a functional dentist can help keep your mouth and teeth healthy, and provide the dental care you need.