The legalization of marijuana has been a decisive topic as of late. Its effects on our health and society as a whole have been debated frequently in recent months, as countries like Canada have decided to fully legalize the drug. A new study by researchers at Columbia University on the drug suggests that frequent marijuana use may lead to gum disease.
Gum disease or periodontitis is a serious condition that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth. This can cause teeth to become loosened and fall out. Gum disease has long been associated with frequent cigarette smokers, but it’s being linked to marijuana use as well.
Effects of gum disease
Healthy gums are typically pink and firm and they support your teeth. Poor oral hygiene leading to excessive plaque build-up and gingivitis are often a predisposing factor that leads to gum disease.
Symptoms of the condition include:
- Swollen or puffy gums
- Bright red, dusky red, or purplish gums
- Tender gums
- Gums that bleed easily
- New spaces in between teeth
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Bad breath
- Painful chewing
- Loose teeth
The study in question analyzed data from nearly 2,000 participants, 27 percent of which were reported to have used cannabis at least once in the last 12 months. Periodontal exams, among other assessments, were carried out to look for signs of plaque, inflammation, bleeding, and gum recession.
Cannabis use effect on the gums
The researchers found that recreational cannabis users were more likely to have signs of moderate to severe gum disease than less-frequent users. In some cases, they were twice as likely to have gum disease.
“The recent spate of new recreational and medical marijuana laws could spell the beginning of a growing oral public health problem,” said study lead author Jaffer Shariff.
While no direct cause and effect relation could be made in a study such as this, it does raise some valid concerns. Some research has found the bacteria responsible for periodontitis entering the blood stream through gum tissue. This could possibly affect the heart, lungs, and other parts of the body.
“At a time when the legalization of recreational and medical marijuana is increasing its use in the United States, users should be made aware of the impact that any form of cannabis can have on the health of their gums,” said Terrence Griffin, president of the American Academy of Periodontology.