In 2016, a major study from Duke University conducted a study on the health of 1000 New Zealanders who had used cannabis for more than 20 years
Cannabis does not appear to have adverse effects on physical health indicators such as lung function, cholesterol, blood pressure and body mass index, and researchers have found that regular use of cannabis has a significant effect on the health of the teeth and gums.
"Although study participants who had consumed weed to some extent during the last 20 years showed an increase in periodontal disease from 26 to 38 years, they were no different from non-users for no other physical health measures, they reported.
Increased risk of periodontal disease
The researchers were careful to consider factors such as smoking, alcohol abuse and poor hygiene in their analysis. They did, however, notice a significant effect of cannabis on oral health, particularly an increased risk of periodontal disease.
Taking into account this and many other studies, the official position of the American Dental Association (ADA) is that cannabis smoking "is associated with periodontal complications, xerostomia, and leukoplakia as well as a risk increased cancer of the mouth and neck ". Xerostomia is a chronic condition of dry mouth. Leukoplakia is a condition that causes white spots inside the mouth.
The dental community is stepping up its education efforts on the impact of cannabis on the mouth and is adapting clinical guidelines for regular cannabis users. In the meantime, the cannabis industry is developing new products that could mitigate the adverse effects on oral health.
The mouth: a fragile ecosystem
The human mouth is a complex ecosystem. It is composed of many interconnected parts and requires a variety of organic materials to maintain its balance. Saliva, in particular, is one of the most important components. It is responsible for a myriad of functions, such as breaking down food and maintaining a moist environment. More importantly for cannabis users, saliva cleans and breaks down bacteria and other substances in the teeth and gums, preventing cavities and other diseases and infections.
When you smoke cannabis, research shows that saliva production decreases. Most cannabis smokers experience this familiar sensation of dry mouth.
This occurs because THC mimics one of the body's natural endocannabinoids, anandamide, which binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors in the submandibular gland of the mouth to decrease salivary production. Thus, when a person consumes cannabis rich in THC, it signals these receptors to reduce the production of saliva in the mouth.
Dry mouth is not just embarrassing
Excessive dryness of the mouth is the biggest oral health problem related to cannabis because it contains antibacterial compounds (in addition to water, mucus, electrolytes and enzymes). A mouth without saliva creates an ideal environment for the accumulation of bacteria, which can cause cavities and fungal infections. If left too long, severe infections of the structures around the teeth, also known as periodontal disease, can develop. This can mean the loss of teeth and bones, and the risk is aggravated by cravings.
"People's behavior when smoking cannabis - drinking more sugary drinks, eating junk food and not taking care of their teeth - is probably more harmful than THC itself," said Dr. Jared Helfant, dentist practicing in Florida and president of Sparx, a cannabis supplier based in California.
Gums do not like smoke
In addition, cannabis use is associated with gingivitis, inflammation of the oral mucosa and gum blotch, although there is no evidence that "inhaled smoke orally, rather than cannabis itself, may be the cause "according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
The act of smoking anything is bad for our teeth, according to the Federal Centers for Disease Control. Smoking can stain teeth and dry out the mouth. Because research is still in its infancy and because smoking and cannabis use are often correlated, it is difficult to know whether cannabis or tobacco is the culprit.
Preserving your oral and dental health
For cannabis users, health professionals like Dr. Helfant and Dr. George Anastasov have some tips.
To combat dry mouth, Dr. Helfant's recommendations resemble those commonly heard at the dentist: Stay hydrated, use a strong fluoride toothpaste to protect against cavities, try an antimicrobial mouthwash to kill excess bacteria in the mouth, and use dental floss.
As long as consumers pay attention to their oral health, Helfant remains optimistic about the benefits of cannabis for health. He even recommended CBD products to help his most anxious patients.
Should we consider chewing chewing gum?
Dr. George Anastasov is a head surgeon, dentist and doctor. He also founded AXIM Biotechnologies, a company known for its cannabis gum. Anastassov is more adamant about recommending smoking cessation to cannabis users.
"Any smokable substance stains teeth unless it is completely transparent. But I do not think that's the main problem with cannabis. The main problem is the effect on the upper respiratory tract and lungs, "says Anastasov. What to do instead? "Stop smoking and chew our chewing gum."
Anastassov is the founder of a cannabis chewing gum company. Chewing gum has been shown to be beneficial to the mouth. Not only does chewing promote good oral health, it also stimulates salivary glands, cleans teeth and prevents dry mouth. In addition, some cannabinoids may be beneficial to the oral cavity, according to Anastasov.
"We know that the oral cavity is the dirtiest place in the human body. "But some cannabinoids, particularly CBG and CBD, are very good antimicrobial compounds." Fluoro-halogenated GBC, he said, has been shown to be "extremely active in disrupting the life cycle of certain bacteria." , especially MRSA ".
MRSA is an antibiotic resistant staphylococcus strain. These common bacteria are generally harmless unless they enter the body through a cut or wound - this is why MRSA tends to proliferate and infect patients at risk in hospitals.
Your dentist's advice
More importantly, the experts encourage cannabis smokers to discuss their consumption with their dentist. Helfant acknowledges that some patients may be reluctant to disclose the use for fear of being judged, and that some dentists may refuse to have this conversation for fear of legal consequences.
"I'm 36 years old and I work in [cannabis] industry, so I'm probably more comfortable talking about it and better informed," he says. "Young dentists in general might be more comfortable than a year old 75 dentist, for example, because the older dentist grew up with a higher degree of cannabis stigma."
In the end, it is not enough to say that cannabis is harmful to your teeth, or not. There are various factors that affect the oral health of a cannabis user. Some are related to the chemical composition of cannabis itself, and others are more dependent on lifestyle choices. In addition, science on oral health and cannabis is still in its infancy, so it is difficult to draw clear conclusions.
For now, putting this expert advice into practice, finding alternatives to smoking and keeping your dentist informed are the best ways to protect these teeth while benefiting from the positive effects of cannabis.