Vape? Toke? Smoke? Give Added Focus To Oral Health.

Posted on Oct 10, 2022 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Everyone has unique issues that can affect overall health. By knowing the specifics that are seemingly unrelated to your smile (such as certain medications, alcohol use, smoking and drug use), we can better tend to individual needs by helping to incorporate proactive measures into their oral care.

Rest assured that this information is confidential between you and your caregivers. It is not used to cast judgement. Your dental care team appreciates having this information and it’s certainly to your benefit when they do. It has been determined that marijuana use, even medical marijuana, can negatively affect your oral health.

Most dental offices are aware that the use of cannabis has become far more common over the years. According to data from the Centers For Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) from 2002 to 2014:

  • Adults ages 35 – 44 showed a 43 percent increase in usage
  • Adults ages 45 – 54 had a 48 percent increase
  • Adults ages 55 – 64 had a 455 percent increase
  • Adults over 65 had a 333 percent

This increase is in contrast to the decrease in cigarette smokers, which may seem to be a positive switch for your oral health. However, all forms of smoking  have a drying effect on oral tissues. This includes the use of e-cigarettes – known as vaping.

The CDC has found that tobacco cigarette smoking is at its lowest level ever recorded among U.S. adults. Still, about 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. reported using a tobacco product in 2017 (including smokeless products).

An estimated 14 percent of these adults who were every day or frequent cigarette smokers in 2017 was down by 67 percent since 1965. The CDC shares: “Another notable decline has been seen among young adults between 2016 – 2017: about 10 percent of young adults between 18 to 24 years smoked cigarettes in 2017, down from 13 percent in 2016.”

Yet, marijuana use is not a healthy alternative for your smile. The risks to your oral health associated with cannabis use include:

  • Compromised Saliva Flow: Saliva acts as a continual oral rinsing agent, moving bacteria and food particles that support bacteria growth out of the mouth. When saliva flow is insufficient, bacteria in the mouth are able to breed quickly. This becomes the source for bad breath, formation of cavities and periodontal (gum) disease.
  • Increased Oral Health Problems: Oral bacteria feed on gum tissues, which enables them to thrive and accumulate quickly. The sticky film you feel on teeth at the end of the day is actually a coating of accumulated oral bacteria. When not removed daily through thorough brushing, this film can harden on tooth surfaces. Known as tartar, or calculus, this is a cement-hard mass of bacteria that eats into tooth enamel and destroys gum tissues.
  • Risks For Serious Overall Health Problems: While your oral health undergoes a number of risks from oral bacteria overload, the potential for other serious health conditions has been found to originate with the infectious bacteria of gum disease. Because the bacteria of gum disease are able to enter the bloodstream through weakened tissues, research has shown inflammatory reactions can occur elsewhere in the body. This inflammation has been linked to heart disease, some cancers, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, preterm babies and more.

Marijuana may also cause additional risks that some people are unaware. For instance, the action of deeply inhaling marijuana smoke and holding it means the volume of intake is up to four times higher than with tobacco. This results in more poisonous carbon monoxide and tar entering the lungs.

Too, the tar in a marijuana joint contains many of the same carcinogens as tobacco smoke. These concentrations can be up to 50 percent higher in the smoke of a cannabis cigarette. For example, smoking just three joints a day can cause the same damage to the lungs as a pack of 20 cigarettes.

In order to maintain good oral health, for all individuals, a thorough at-home oral care regimen along with regular dental checkups and cleanings are important. However, for users of tobacco or cannabis, we advise having an examination by a periodontal specialist. A periodontist is a dentist who has received advanced training in the diagnosis and treatment of all stages of gum disease as well as in the placement of dental implants.

Because the symptoms of gum disease are not always obvious, a periodontist can ensure gum disease does not already exist. If it does, however, he or she can discuss treatment to restore your gums to good health and develop a program to help keep them healthy.

Also, be especially committed to your oral hygiene at home. This includes twice daily brushing, daily flossing and drinking plain water throughout the day. Another way to combat dry mouth is to use an oral rinse that is specifically formulated to replenish moisture. There are several OTC (over-the-counter), available in most drug stores.

Our goal is to help each patient achieve a healthy smile for life. For patients who wish to achieve this, we work with them according to individual needs. Through a customized treatment plan, your oral health can be a positive part of your overall health regardless of personal preferences. Call our Asheville periodontal dental office at 828-274-9440 to learn more or tap here to begin.


Recent Posts