The Specialist

How marijuana smoking affects your dental health

Marijuana is the second highest most widely used psychotropic (mood altering) drug in the United States and likely The Bahamas, second only to alcohol. Used for many years, by the 1800’s marijuana was generally accepted in mainstream medicine and was used to treat opioid withdrawal, stimulate appetite, and relieve nausea and vomiting.

Marijuana may have a medical cure for your epilepsy and other ailments, however, it could create serious dental health issues for regular users. Recent studies suggest that marijuana smoking has been associated with poor quality of oral health.

Cannabis, also known as marijuana, among other names, is a psychotropic drug from the cannabis plant. Native to Central or South Asia, the cannabis plant has been used as a drug for both recreational and hallucinogenic purposes and in various traditional medicines for centuries.

In several studies examining the impact of marijuana smoking on the oral cavity, scientists found that regular cannabis smokers suffered significant impact on the health of teeth and gums.

They noticed an increased risk of periodontal disease.

Squamous cell carcinoma associated with smoking.

The American Dental Association (ADA) also stated that marijuana smoking is associated with periodontal complications, xerostomia and leukoplakia in the mouth as well as increased risk of mouth and neck cancers.

Xerostomia is a chronic dry mouth condition. Dry mouth is a condition that leads to constant bad breath. Leukoplakia is a condition that causes white patches or spots to appear inside the mouth. Leukoplakia is commonly seen in early stages of mouth cancer.

The human mouth is a complex system. It’s made up of many interconnected parts. Saliva is one of the most vital components in this system. It’s responsible for many functions, like breaking down food and maintaining a moist environment. Most importantly to cannabis users, saliva removes and breaks down bacteria and other substances from the teeth and gums, preventing cavities. When you smoke cannabis, the saliva production decreases. Most cannabis smokers are acutely aware of this common occurrence.

This happens because THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is one of the compounds (cannabinoids) found in the cannabis plant. THC affects the submandibular glands that produce saliva. THC is also responsible for the intoxication and “high” effects.

Excessive dry mouth is the biggest cannabis-related issue for oral health because the saliva contains antibacterial products (in addition to water, antibodies, electrolytes and enzymes). A mouth without saliva is an ideal environment for bacteria to build up, which can cause cavities and fungal infections. If left for too long, severe infections in the gums persists resulting in periodontal disease. Additionally, gingivitis is common because of the direct effects of the inhaled smoke from the marijuana. This results in early tooth and bone loss. These risks are magnified by the constant junk food snacking of marijuana users.

What makes matters worse is that people under the influence of marijuana tend to drink more sugary drinks, eat more junk food and neglect their teeth.

To manage dry mouth, one should stay hydrated, use fluoride toothpaste to protect against decay and use an antimicrobial mouth rinse to kill excess bacteria in the mouth. You should definitely brush and floss more often.

Cannabis smokers are encouraged to speak honestly with their dentists about their use. These conversations can avoid adverse interactions with local anesthesia and pain medications used during the appointment.

For now, practicing these tips, finding alternatives to smoking and keeping your dentist in the loop are the best ways to protect one’s teeth for those who utilize the positive effects of cannabis. For further information, visit our website at

• Dr. Kendal V.O. Major is the founder and CEO of the Center for Specialized Dentistry, which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in New Providence and Grand Bahama. He is the first Bahamian specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He is also a certified fast braces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, New Providence. He can be contacted at (242) 325-5165 or

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