The Ontario Dental Association is warning Canadians, now that pot is legal, of its effects on oral health.
The biggest issue? Smoking it. Just like smoking tobacco, smoking marijuana has negative consequences for your teeth, gums and mouth, said Dr. David Stevenson, president of the Ontario Dental Association.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re smoking tea leaves, tobacco or marijuana. Smoke dries out your mouth,” he said.
Dry mouth contributes to an increased risk of cavities, gum disease and eventually, more serious issues like stomatitis – an inflammation of the mouth and lips, or an overgrowth of the gums, said Dr. José Lança, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Dentistry and Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto.
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This is bad news for the 86 per cent of marijuana users who smoke it at least sometimes, according to a recent exclusive Ipsos poll for Global News.
Although people who smoke marijuana don’t generally smoke it as often as someone who smokes cigarettes, they do tend to hold the smoke in their mouths and lungs a bit longer, Lança said. Marijuana also burns at a higher temperature than tobacco, meaning there is an increased risk of heat damage to the inside of your mouth, he said.
Marijuana smoke also contains many of the same carcinogens and even more tar than tobacco smoke, Lança said, though much more research needs to be done on the effects of marijuana smoke.
The easiest way to avoid these problems if you’re using marijuana is just not to smoke it, he said.
Although as a dentist, Stevenson isn’t crazy about the tooth-rotting sugar content of the typical marijuana edible, like a brownie or gummy bear, eating marijuana would prevent the smoking-related issues — and most edibles are consumed in tiny quantities, like a single chocolate square.
Vaping may also help, as the marijuana itself isn’t combusted, though both Lança and Stevenson caution that vaping products with added chemicals, similar to tobacco vaping liquids, could have other health consequences.
Stevenson suggested drinking a lot of water to help deal with a dry mouth after smoking, as well as to help wash away acid produced by a sugary edible.
Additionally, he said you should keep your dentist informed of your habits.
“Talk to your dentist,” he said. “They can help you to understand the risks of your consumption and properly monitor your oral health for any unintended consequences.”
“Now that it’s legal, don’t hesitate to tell us. Let us know what you’re doing.”
He also believes it’s important for patients, when they arrive to their appointment, tell their dentist if they have consumed marijuana that day. “When dentists perform procedures, we use local anesthetics, we use medications in the actual procedure itself,” he said.
Some of those medications, like marijuana, can raise your heart rate a little – causing a possible drug interaction if you have recently consumed marijuana.
“It’s really important to let your dentist know not just about your use on a long-term basis but also let us know if you’ve used it right before your appointment.”