Research Links Marijuana Smoking to Gum Disease

marijuana texas photo As Texas and other states grapple with whether and how to expand medical and recreational marijuana, questions remain about the health risks of marijuana use.

Unlike cigarette smoking, for example, marijuana use is not associated with a heightened risk for cancer or respiratory ailments. However, recent research indicates that marijuana and tobacco use share at least one dangerous side-effect in periodontal disease.

Highs Equal Lows for Your Gums

A long-term, multi-institutional study of more than 1,000 people from birth through age 38 found that those who smoked pot at least occasionally over a period of 20 years had increased rates of gum disease. Research participants who reported using marijuana with some frequency experienced spikes in periodontal disease between ages 26 and 38.

Scientists conducted a statistical analysis to account for other factors that may affect the development of gum disease, and linked the onset of periodontal disease to marijuana use. Incidentally, study participants who smoked cigarettes were found to have higher rates of gum disease as well as limited respiratory function and numerous other health problems. Researchers found no additional connection between marijuana and detrimental physical health effects.

The research team included physical and mental health experts from Arizona State University, Duke University, King’s College in the United Kingdom, and the University of Otago in New Zealand. The group’s findings were published June 1 in JAMA Psychiatry, a peer-reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association.

Marijuana and Periodontal Health

The study leaves some lingering questions for future research, including how marijuana use raises the risk of gum disease.

A Washington Post report about the research pointed out that participants who smoked marijuana regularly were less likely to brush their teeth at least twice daily and floss at least once daily. But scientists said they adjusted their data for poor dental hygiene and still found increased instances of periodontal disease among marijuana users.

The Dangers of Gum Disease

Periodontal disease is treatable and relatively common, although the longer gum disease is ignored the more dangerous it becomes. Without treatment, periodontal disease contributes to tooth loss and the deterioration of the jaw bone.

The adverse effects of gum disease are not limited to your oral health. Periodontal disease can also increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke among other life-threatening health problems.

Undergoing treatment for gum disease has significant long-term benefits. A 2014 study focused on patients with periodontal disease indicated that research participants who had at least one gum disease treatment consequently had lower medical costs and fewer instances of hospitalization over a four-year follow-up period.

Austin dentist Dr. Dan Matthews understands the intimate relationship between your oral health and your general well-being. Dr. Matthews and the entire team at our Bee Cave Road office are dedicated to helping you restore and maintain a beautiful, healthy smile through compassionate, comprehensive dental care. Please call Dan Matthews, DDS, today at 512-452-2273 to schedule your appointment.

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