We Asked a Dentist and a Dental Hygienist to Weigh In on Marijuana’s Impact on Your Teeth
Taking care of your oral health can be important for your self-esteem and general appearance, but the link between oral health and overall health is critical to our well-being. When reports surfaced about how smoking cannabis can cause disease and oral health problems, Civilized reached out to the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) and the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association (CDHA) to weigh in on marijuana’s impact on your teeth. Here’s what they had to say.
To maintain excellent oral health, you should avoid smoking cannabis — especially when mixed with tobacco, according to Dr. Aaron Burry — Associate Director of Clinical Affairs at the Canadian Dental Association (CDA).
“When you combine these two products, it doubles the carcinogens that people are being exposed to,” he shared. “There is also an increase in the risk of periodontal or gum disease with smoking cannabis.”
Be Wary of Vaping
Some people may shrug off Dr. Burry’s warning about smoking cannabis since they prefer to vape. But Dr. Burry also warned that “the jury is still out on the aspects of vaping.” He noted that there are still unknown health aspects with vaping, as it pertains to the lungs and heart as well as the teeth, for example.
“In the dental community, warning bells are going off due to chemicals being in the mouth over a long period of time, and as with any chemical such as alcohol or smoking or vaping, which can frequently go hand in hand.”
Dr. Burry also warns that it’s too early to know the long-term effects of vaping cannabis, but he does know enough to say that the compounds in vaping are not neutral compounds, and when tissues have frequent ongoing exposure to non-neutral compounds, they just do not have time to recover.
“We have seen cautionary tales coming from the U.S. where legal nicotine-based products have been legal for a long time, and I am cautious of what we will see longer term.”
Chase Edibles with Water
There’s no shortage of controversy surrounding cannabis edibles thanks to headlines about people overdoing it on cannabis-infused snacks. But Dr. Burry believes that most would say edibles are probably safer from the perspective of oral health. However, some edibles are definitely better than others depending on their sugar content since sugar feeds bacteria that can damage your teeth.
If having a sugary edible, Dr. Burry recommends drinking lots of water and cutting down on your sugar consumption in other areas.
Make sure your oral health provider knows you indulge
If you’re a consumer, make sure to tell your dentist or dental hygienist how much cannabis you consume and how frequently you are using it, says Dr. Burry. He also suggests being strict about maintaining top-notch oral hygiene as cannabis can be very irritating to the mouth, particularly if you are smoking it.
Cannabis can also have interactions with other medications that you are taking, or that your dentist could prescribe. That’s why Melanie Martin — Director of Dental Hygiene Practice with the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association — says it’s crucial to notify your dental health team about your consumption. Cannabis can increase the likelihood of complications like bleeding during dental surgery, which could hinder a treatment or impact the healing process following a procedure. Keeping your oral health team in the loop can help ensure they are able to provide the best care for your situation.
Martin also points out that imbibing before a dental appointment could impair your capacity to provide consent to treatment, and appointments could need to be rescheduled. So for your safety, it’s best to be upfront about your cannabis use when visiting the dentist.
In addition, cannabis consumers should be aware that if you combine smoking, vaping and drinking alcohol — or any combo of these — the risks of developing a health issue go up substantially. One of those risks, for example, includes an increased chance of developing oral cancer.