Getting High is a Real Downer for your Smile | 5 Ways of How Marijuana Harms Your Oral Health

Posted May 2022

By Delta Dental of Arkansas

Tagged recreational use, medicinal use, food cravings, lesions, HPV, oral cancer, tooth discoloration, cavities, dry mouth, joint, pot, weed, cannabis, Marijuana

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Getting High is a Real Downer for your Smile | 5 Ways of How Marijuana Harms Your Oral Health

Hand holding a joint

Despite the growing trend to legalize marijuana for adult use, smoking pot remains an offense for your smile.

Whether serious or minor remains unclear because the enduring federal ban on consuming cannabis has prevented long-term studies of the substance’s oral health effects.

But enough warning flags exist.

How Marijuana Endangers Your Oral Health

If you smoke marijuana, AKA cannabis, for recreational or medicinal purposes, please beware of these 5 health risks to your gums, teeth, tongue and throat:

  1. Tooth Discoloration

    The plant tannins contained in cannabis may stain your teeth brownish or yellowish. Even with meticulous dental hygiene or teeth whitening, your pearly whites won’t remain, well, white with continued marijuana consumption. 

  2. Dry Mouth

    Smoking marijuana, just like smoking tobacco, decreases your saliva flow. 

    A dry mouth makes your teeth and gums more susceptible to cavities and periodontal diseases like gingivitis, periodontitis and tooth loss. Heavy marijuana smokers are three times more likely to have severe gum disease than non-smokers. 

  3. Oral Inflammation

    Your mucus membranes may develop painful inflammation because of the heat and chemicals in cannabis products.

  4. Cravings for Sugary or Starchy Foods

    Many cannabis users experience unhealthy cravings for sugary or starchy foods. Both kinds are particularly harmful to your teeth because they interact with plaque bacteria to form cavity-causing acids.

  5. Higher Risk for Oral Cancer
  6. Cannabis may contain chemical carcinogens. In response, your tongue, throat, neck or the roof of your mouth may develop white lesions or patches that could prove cancerous. Scientific studies show that marijuana can be an accelerator of head and neck cancer related to the human papillomavirus (HPV).


3 Steps to Protect Your Smile from the Dangers of Marijuana

Cannabis consumption is growing increasingly common. As of May 2022, 19 states have approved the drug for recreational use and 36 states for medicinal purposes. Even the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to legalize it nationally, although its future in the Senate remains uncertain.

If you are a marijuana smoker, consider taking the following steps to reduce your oral health risks:

  1. Medical cannabis doesn’t necessarily have to be smoked. Consider alternatives such as oils, tinctures, creams, and edibles. Vaping, like vaping tobacco, is not necessarily a safer option.
  2. Pay close attention to your dental hygiene. Be sure to brush twice a day thoroughly with fluoridated toothpaste, floss at least once a day, rinse with non-alcoholic mouthwash once a day and see your dentist for regular, preventive care visits.
  3. Drink plenty of water to minimize dry mouth and stay hydrated after cannabis use. Also consume crunchy produce like apples and celery to stimulate saliva flow.


Can Your Dentist Tell You’re Smoking Weed?

Unless you arrive at your dentist’s office with a joint lit up, your dentist won’t necessarily know that you smoke cannabis. However, they will be able to tell that you are smoking something. The dry mouth, discolored teeth and condition of your teeth and the red, inflamed gums will all be indicators.

When asked about your marijuana consumption, be transparent. Your dentist can be among your strongest allies to discuss the harmful effects of smoking cannabis. They can advise you on the changes you can make to maintain or improve your oral health and recommend resources to help you reduce or quit the habit.   


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Americans with dental insurance were 26% more likely to have visited the dentist the previous year than those without it. Join the group by becoming a Delta Dental of Arkansas subscriber. Our various insurance options for dental and vision for individuals, families and groups offer competitive rates, different levels of benefits and access to one of Arkansas’s largest networks of providers.

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