Medical marijuana can be a godsend for those with certain health conditions. You might feel like you’ve got a new lease on life and feel better than you have in years. Giving a thought to the effects of cannabis on your oral health is just as important as considering what it does for your physical and mental health. Cannabis use can have some gnarly drawbacks in regard to your oral health, but most of them can be mitigated with extra care and attention in the dentist’s chair and at home.

Possible Side Effects

As with any medical treatment, you might encounter some side effects when using MMJ to improve your quality of life. Historically, smoking marijuana has been correlated to poor dental health, but these studies did not account for other factors such as poor physical or mental health, low socio-economic status restricting access to quality dental care or concurrent misuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

Cotton Mouth

The biggest side effect you’re likely to encounter with MMJ is dry mouth. It doesn’t matter if you smoke, vape, use a transdermal patch, drink a tincture or suck on a marijuana-infused candy — this side effect is present across the spectrum. Why? It has to do with neurological receptors in your body, which bind to active components in marijuana and stop sending your salivary glands the signal to produce enough saliva.

Dry mouth can contribute to tooth decay, yeast and bacterial infections, so it’s important to stay on top of cotton mouth when using medical marijuana. Sipping water and sucking on sugar-free hard candies can help mitigate the effects of dry mouth caused by medical marijuana.

Form and Dosage Matter

The way you use your medical marijuana can have an effect on your oral health, too. No one method of delivery is perfect, and almost all forms have their drawbacks when it comes to keeping your mouth happy, healthy and spared from the side effects of MMJ. In addition to the way you take your prescribed medical marijuana, the dose can affect your oral health, too.  Some side effects can be lessened or eliminated by proper dosage — something that requires trial and error and consultation with your prescribing doctor.

Smoking and Vaping

Inhaling marijuana smoke can cause irritation to your gums and may lead to an increase in the likelihood of leukoplakia, thrush or yeast infections. Whether this is due to the marijuana itself or the presence of harsh smoke requires further research. Keeping an eye on your oral health and regular brushing and flossing can lessen the likelihood of these effects. Similarly, vaping can dry out your mouth and increase the severity of the already imminent dry mouth.

Candies and Edibles

Candies or edibles infused with marijuana come with their own set of problems, namely sugar. By providing a fuel source for bacteria, the sugar clings to your mouth and encourages bacterial growth, contributing to tooth decay and plaque formation. If possible, choose sugar-free or low-sugar options and consume your MMJ edibles and candies with a glass of water to neutralize the effects until it’s possible to brush your teeth.

MMJ, Your Dentist and You

If you use marijuana — medicinally, of course — it’s important to be honest with your dentist. It’s especially important if you’ll be undergoing any treatments that involve anesthesia or require pain medication afterwards, as cannabis use can cause serious complications. Your dentist isn’t there to judge or criticize you — they’re there to ensure the health of your teeth, gums and mouth. To do that, your dentist needs a complete and comprehensive view of your health and what you’re putting into your body on a regular basis. When you hide vital information, you can jeopardize your smile and put yourself at risk for greater complications.
Additionally, if your dentist is aware of your cannabis use, they can make the best recommendations for home care to help reduce the potential side effects on your oral health, whether it’s a rinse to help minimize the damage from dry mouth or modifications to offset irritation from smoking. You don’t have to worry about compassionate care when you book your next dental appointment. The office of Drs. Krieger and Hur strives to make the whole process as pain-free as possible from start to finish. Schedule your next appointment by phone at 201-560-0606 or reach out to us via email by clicking here. We can’t wait to see you in our chair!