We have talked about smoking tobacco and its consequences on oral health. Now with the legalization of cannabis in Canada, let’s discuss how its regular use affects your dental health.
Regular cannabis users usually have poorer oral health, which is evidenced by higher rates of tooth decay, missing teeth, inflamed gums, and cavities as compared to non-users.
Effects of cannabis on oral health:
- Periodontal Disease
- Stained Teeth
- Mouth Cancers
Have you ever experienced the cotton-mouthed feeling when smoking pot? This means your mouth is dry due to lack of saliva. This oral condition of dry mouth is known as xerostomia, which is due to the reduced salivary flow. While under the influence of cannabis, the nervous system reacts by reducing the production of saliva.
This lack of saliva can create a whole range of problems. Saliva plays an important role for your healthy oral condition. It helps with breaking down food for easy intake, rinses your teeth and gums to remove food particles after meals, helps with rebuilding tissues, and provides disease fighting substances to keep your mouth healthy.
With the lack of saliva in the mouth, it eventually leads to cavities, as the enamel on the surface of your teeth becomes damaged, and teeth can appear worn and shorter, and extremely sensitive. Lack of saliva also causes bad breath.
Cannabis use can lead to periodontitis, which is the inflammation of tissue around your teeth, causing shrinkage of gums and loosening of teeth. Apart from teeth and gums, regular cannabis use also damages other soft tissues in your mouth like lips, tongues, cheeks and the roof of your mouth.
It is not a surprise that heavy tobacco smokers have stained and yellow teeth. Heavy cannabis users also have similar teeth in appearance, with worn out gums, resulting in a not so 'pearly-white' smile.
Abusing cannabis also creates a condition called cannabis stomatitis, which is the damaging of the lining of the mouth. This leads to sores that are painful to treat, and often don’t go away, and eventually take the form of oral cancers.
As dentists, we recommend to avoid consuming cannabis as much as possible. If you are a regular cannabis smoker:
- Avoid using alcohol based mouthwashes as they dry your mouth.
- If you are scheduled for a dental procedure, avoid cannabis at least one week prior to your procedure as epinephrine in anesthetics used for numbing, combined with high THC levels, and anxiety, can be life threatening.
- There is an increased failure rate of a dental implant for you due to cannabis’s effect on new bone development and so this procedure may not be right for you.
- You could use in-office teeth whitening procedures to improve the appearance and try to regain some of the whiteness of your teeth.