Many of us thought it would never happen but cannabis is finally legal and an ordinary part of daily life, at least here in California. For many local adults, gummies and smokable products are as integrated into the Los Angeles lifestyle as $20.00 craft cocktails at high-end restaurants or cheap wine from Trader Joe’s.
As a leading dental office in the West Los Angeles area, Dr. Peiman Soleymani and his team at Beverly Hills Periodontics & Dental Implant Center are chiefly interested in how legal cannabis is impacting oral health. For starters, while perhaps less dangerous than alcohol, cannabis products are not harmless – no drug ever is. The pros of cannabis have been argued for decades now, including its medicinal uses, its calming effect, and its lack of physically addictive properties but it’s time to look at its oral health downside.
Dry Mouth and Lesions
Even very casual pot users are familiar with temporary “cotton mouth” whether smoking or using edibles. Saliva protects the mouth against harmful bacteria, so gingivitis and more severe gum illnesses pose a clear threat if dry mouth persists. Periodontal disease treatment may eventually be needed so the sooner it’s treated, the better.
A particular type of lesion is also associated with cannabis, though it’s not clear whether it’s only associated with smoked weed as opposed to edibles or sprays. Leukoplakia is a white or gray growth that appears on the gums, the floor of the mouth, the inside of the cheeks, and elsewhere. It's been associated with oral cancers, so please seek treatment right away if growths appear.
One of the primary medical uses of cannabis is to stimulate the appetite when people with health problems are not eating enough. Of course, most Americans suffer from the opposite problem. Put simply, ”the munchies” are one of the most well-known and immediate effects of marijuana consumption. While pot has done no harm to fast-food joints and junk food manufacturers, we all know that eating too many sweet/high-carb snacks is not great for our teeth or our waistline.
There’s an obvious solution to this problem which is to make sure plenty of low-calorie, low-sugar snacks are on hand while indulging – celery with seasoned salt or apples, for example. Since edibles are preferable healthwise, why not go with sugar-free and keto-friendly gummies? Failing that, all we can say is that a toothbrush is not heavy machinery; if you can remember to brush your teeth while high, you can do so safely.
Too Much is Always Too Much
While pot is not physically addictive it can become a crutch; perhaps most of us have known people who have used it too much at certain points in their lives. It might seem funny at times but then so do a lot of things that can harm us.
If Harold and Kumar or Cheech and Chong existed in the real world,* they’d likely be skipping brushing and flossing while also eating plenty of teeth-melting snacks; they’d likely have bad breath that might make them less fun to be around than they seem onscreen. There is plenty of data to show that people who use cannabis very regularly are more prone to a host of dental problems.
Real-life potheads who ignore their oral hygiene may suffer from problems that can cause teeth to become so compromised they must be extracted. If they are not replaced by dental implants, a devastating chain reaction in which bone loss spurs more gum disease can cause patients to lose entire rows of teeth.
Moderation is Always the Key
You’re likely an adult and we’re not here to tell you what to do. We all make choices and whether you’re using cannabis medicinally, recreationally, or maybe a little bit of both, the key is always moderation. Oral health and overall health can’t be separated, and keeping control of cannabis usage, like most other non-exercise recreational habits, is always crucial.
Contact Beverly Hills Periodontics & Dental Implant Center
Dr. Peiman Soleymani is a widely respected periodontist and dental implantologist who has helped countless people restore their oral health. If you are concerned about your gums for any reason, including symptoms like bleeding gums or halitosis, we want to hear from you. Call us at the phone number on your screen or reach out electronically to schedule a consultation.
* Yes, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong are real people but if they used as much pot as regularly as their comedic personas do, they’d be unknown stoners, not legendary comic actors.