Cannabis and Gum Disease: Is There a Link?

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Cannabis and Gum Disease: Is There a Link?

There’s a lot that health experts have yet to know and establish about the benefits of marijuana through scientific studies. On the flip side, there are also risks that haven’t yet been recognized (not to mention plenty of health risks that have yet to be thoroughly debunked). One of the unexpected risks of smoking cannabis may be damage to your dental health; to the surprise of researchers, a study published last year found a link between cannabis and gum disease.

Published last year in the Journal of Periodontology, the study concluded that individuals who reported smoking recreational cannabis, hash, or hash oil at least once a month were twice as likely to be diagnosed with gum disease than non-smoker or infrequent users. The researchers were not expecting to find marijuana linked to gum disease, even though the link between smoking cigarettes and gum disease is well-established by years of research.

Cannabis and Gum Disease

As of now, the generally accepted understanding is that smoking cigarettes weakens the immune system, allowing all sorts of infections to thrive. Smoking cigarettes also makes it more difficult for damaged gums to heal. There’s currently no research to clarify how exactly smoking pot leads to gum disease — or if the pathways to gum disease are the same as with tobacco cigarettes — but these recent findings suggest a strong link between smoking cannabis frequently and periodontal disease.

“Marijuana may be affecting the immune system, the inflammation process, or bacterial flora in the mouth,” lead author Jaffer Shariff explained to Men’s Journal. He also shared his belief that it isn’t simply the heat itself that is putting people at risk for gum disease, but rather the release of damaging compounds during the combustion process.

Gum Disease Health Risks

Cigarette smokers who suffer from gum disease also may be at a higher risk for stroke, heart attack, and preterm labor. Though some studies have suggested that there’s is a casual relationship between the conditions, experts have not established a consensus over whether gum disease is what increases these health risks or whether the only complications tied to gum disease are related to dental health.

More research needs to confirm the link between marijuana and gum disease, but the lead author of the study concluded that frequent marijuana smokers should be especially diligent about their dental hygiene to prevent gum disease from developing. Further, marijuana smokers who are already experiencing swollen or receding gums should talk to their dentist about their cannabis smoking practices and, ideally, quit smoking in order to allow their gums to recover.

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