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Marijuana users are at risk for gum disease

Posted on 08-12-2016 Posted in Marijuana, Physical Health, Substance Abuse - 0 Comments

Marijuana gum disease

Marijuana is not nearly as dangerous to physical health as alcohol and other drugs are, but that does not mean marijuana use is harmless.

Marijuana use has doubled in the U.S. over the past decade, likely due to medical use and legalization.  Many clinical trials have been conducted in order to further determine the safety, efficacy and pharmacokinetics of marijuana and marijuana-derived preparations. One recent study explored the long-term effects of chronic marijuana (cannabis) use on physical health, and their findings indicated an adverse effect from marijuana use that people may not have expected.

Marijuana and the mouth

Researchers in New Zealand examined data collected along the lifespan of participants born in 1972 and 1973 and followed for 38 years. They looked at medical test results, self-reported physical health and cannabis use and dependence between ages 26 and 38 years. Unlike tobacco users, cannabis users did not develop physical health problems in early midlife. Cannabis users did have poorer periodontal health, however, and those who used it for a longer period of time had worse effects on their periodontal health.

Some possible reasons why marijuana causes periodontal disease include:

Symptoms of periodontal disease include:

  • Ongoing foul-smelling breath
  • Painful chewing
  • Red, swollen, tender, or bleeding gums (gingivitis),
  • Receding gums or teeth getting longer
  • Cavities
  • Teeth sensitive to cold, warm, or sweet foods/drinks
  • Loose teeth or tooth loss

Periodontal disease is not just a matter of cosmetic appearance. It can affect overall health by altering nutrition intake, leading to systemic inflammatory disease in the heart and other organs, causing premature birth and other problems.

Depending on the severity of the periodontal disease, dental treatment or oral surgery can help save the teeth and treat the underlying problem. If marijuana use is causing the underlying problem, it must be discontinued to prevent worsening of the oral disease.

More effects of marijuana and how to stop smoking

Marijuana use can have other negative consequences as well, including addiction. Marijuana negatively affects memory and cognition, increases complacency and is associated with poorer overall school and work performance.

For those who are able to stop using recreational marijuana, exercise can be an excellent substitute. Exercise accomplishes most of the same benefits and more. Some of these benefits include:

  • Euphoric feelings from endorphins rather than THC
  • Resilience to stress and reduced anxiety
  • Freedom from insomnia and better sleep quality
  • A healthy appetite
  • Medicinal value as it promotes oxygenation to tissues, treating cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, musculoskeletal problems, mental illness and more

If someone is unable to stop using marijuana despite any problems it may be causing, it may indicate they have developed a physical, chemical dependency on the substance. Withdrawal symptoms, including moodiness, drowsiness, decreased appetite, anxiety and cravings, can make it very difficult to stop using marijuana without help. About 17 percent of admissions to publicly funded substance use treatment programs are for problematic marijuana use.

If you or someone you love is struggling with chemical dependency, effective and confidential treatment is available. Sovereign Health Group is a leader in the treatment of substance use and mental health disorders for teens, adults and seniors. Our beautiful locations in Fort Myers and Pompano Beach offer comprehensive neuropsychiatric assessment and individualized treatment by our team of experts. We also provide continuing care to support long-term recovery as well as ongoing access to educational and health resources, and other opportunities. To find out more about the specialized programs at Sovereign Health of Florida, please call our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Dana Connolly, Ph.D., is a senior staff writer for Sovereign Health, where she translates current research into practical information. She earned her Ph.D. in research and theory development from New York University and has decades of experience in clinical care, medical research and health education. Sovereign Health is a health information resource, and Dr. Connolly helps to ensure excellence in our model. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at

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