Marijuana use may increase gum disease risk

Frequent recreational use of cannabis — including marijuana, hashish, and hash oil — increases the risk of gum disease, says a study.

“It is well known that frequent tobacco use can increase the risk of periodontal disease, but it was surprising to see that recreational cannabis users may also be at risk,” said Jaffer Shariff from Columbia University School of Dental Medicine.

Periodontal (gum) disease is an inflammatory reaction to a bacterial infection below the gum line. Left untreated, gum disease can lead to receding gums and tooth loss.

Longstanding periodontal disease has also been associated with a number of non-oral health issues, from preterm labour during pregnancy to heart disease.

The researchers analysed data from nearly 2,000 US adults. Approximately 27 per cent of the participants reported using cannabis one or more times for at least a year.

“Even controlling for other factors linked to gum disease, such as cigarette smoking, frequent recreational cannabis smokers are twice as likely as non-frequent users to have signs of periodontal disease,” Shariff, who is lead author of the study published in the Journal of Periodontology, said.

Periodontal exams focus on a patient’s gum tissue and connection to the teeth.

Among other assessments, periodontists look for plaque, inflammation, bleeding, and gum recession.

The clinician uses a probe to measure the space between teeth and their surrounding gum tissue.

Healthy gums fit a tooth snugly, with no more than one to three millimetres of space, known as pocket depth, between the tooth and surrounding gum tissue. Deeper pockets usually indicate presence of periodontitis.

Among the study participants, frequent recreational cannabis users had more sites with pocket depths indicative of moderate to severe periodontal disease than less frequent users.