Andra Mahoney, RDH BSDH
Cannabis and Your Oral Health
Cannabis is illegal on the federal level. However, as of March 2018, 30 states have legalized the use of either medical or recreational marijuana. As this becomes more prevalent, we all need to become aware of the effects cannabis use has on our mouths.
Why people use Cannabis
Reduce pain from:
-Spinal Cord Injuries
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Decrease seizures in Drug-resistant Epilepsy
Reduce Muscle Spasticity
Reduce Nausea and Vomiting related to Chemotherapy and AIDS treatments
Types of Marijuana
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol): the primary psychoactive compound of the plant.
CBD (cannabidiol): nonpsychoactive, does not produce the typical “high”.
Weed: leaves and buds of the female plant.
Hash: resin made from the plants. Resin can be dried into blocks.
Hash Oil: most potent form, applied to different items.
Ways to Administer
Inhalation: smoked in cigarettes (joints), pipes (bongs), hollowed out cigars (blunts), hookah pipes. Alternatives to smoking include vaping, inhaling a fine mist caused by heating the marijuana instead of burning it. Dabbing is when hash oil is made into a wax and heated to a vapor in a glass pipe.
Oral: edibles (food or beverages), capsules, sublingual (under your tongue), tinctures, or oromucosal sprays (mouth sprays).
Topical: creams, and oils.
-Addiction is significantly greater with adolescent onset use as opposed to adult onset use.
-Myocardial Infarction (MI)
-Acute Kidney Injury
-Respiratory, including lung cancer
-Nervous system disorder
-Decrease development of brain’s white matter
-Paranoia and anxiety are often found in the use of THC.
-Self Harm and suicidal behaviors
-Confusion, impaired functioning
Effects on your Mouth
The inhalation category referenced above has the most negative effect on your mouth. Especially if used chronically.
-Increase in cavities/tooth lose due to poor hygiene
-Increase in cavities/tooth lose due to increase in sugary, carbohydrated foods
-Inflammation in gums resulting in higher risk for periodontitis (gum disease)
-Inflammation in gums resulting in leukoplakic (white) patches
-Xerostomia (dry mouth)
-Cannabis Stomatitis (changes in the lining of the mouth)
-Negative interactions between local anesthetic and nitrous oxide
There are many reason why people use marijuana. If you do, make sure you are informed on the risks and weigh those to the benefits you find in using cannabis. If you smoke marijuana, look into alternative methods such as edibles or topical applications. Visit your dental professionals regularly so that we can help keep you healthy! Regular dental hygiene appointments to keep your teeth/gums healthy, oral cancer screenings, and any teeth restorations as needed. But most importantly, make sure you find a place that you feel comfortable openly, safely discussing your cannabis use so that we, as oral health professionals, can provide you with the safest care possible.
Want to learn more? Visit us at
Yao, Suellan Go, DMD, and James Burke Fine, DMD. “Consumption of Cannabis and Effects of Periodontal Health.” CDA Journal Volume 45. Issue 9 (2017): 475-481. Print.