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CBD (also known as cannabidiol) is widely used by many because of its antiemetic and analgesic properties for medical use. It serves as a mood enhancer and mild sedative for recreational users. The dried leaf of the cannabis plant is smoked as marijuana, which is the most common and popular form taken by Americans. The number of marijuana users has increased exponentially in America over the years. According to the 2019 Gallup poll survey, about 45% of Americans reveal that they have taken marijuana at one point or another in their life. So many nations of the world have begun legalizing the use of marijuana for both medical and recreational usage. It is imperative to note that despite its widespread medical application, cannabis can have a severe effect on your oral health.
What You Need to Know About Cannabis
Cannabis is one of the most widely used psychotropic drugs in the USA after alcohol. Currently, marijuana usage is legal in many states; therefore, you need to learn more about its active ingredients to clear up any misconceptions. Research shows that cannabis was used spiritually and medicinally in the last 5000 years of history of Ancient China, Egypt, Rome, and India. In the late 1600s, Hemp (the fiber component of the cannabis plant) was grown in many parts of America to make ropes, sails, and clothing. And in the 1800s, cannabis had gained wide acceptance in mainstream medicine for opioid withdrawal treatment, appetite stimulation, and to relieve nausea and vomiting.
Cannabis (which is also known as marijuana, weed, grass, pot, dope, hash) is a cannabinoid drug. It mostly attaches itself to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and body. These receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system of the central nervous system and are responsible for most physiological processes in the body like appetite, sleep, memory, mood, and pain. Basically, users get sedative and mood-enhancing effects when using cannabis for recreational purposes. In medical applications, it helps to prevent and relieve nausea.
How Cannabis Affects Oral Health
The negative effects of cannabis are seen when you smoke it, just like the case of smoking tobacco. Consistent cannabis smokers are prone to gum inflammation and diseases. The distinct effect of cannabis on oral health has not been fully determined; this is because most cannabis smokers are also chronic tobacco smokers and alcohol drinkers. Therefore, it is a bit difficult to place the effects categorically. Researchers are still undergoing further studies to determine the real effects of cannabis on oral health. Regardless, the following are common with most cannabis smokers:
The heat absorbed when smoking cannabis irritates the gums and may lead to sensitivity, swelling, and bleeding. The smoke from marijuana, just like tobacco smoke, contains some harmful carcinogens that can cause gum damage. This is the reason marijuana smokers need to be extra careful to prevent periodontal disease and gingivitis.
One of the most predominant effects of cannabis on oral health is “munchies.” Marijuana smokers have a tendency to be careless with their choice of food. They go for processed foods and sugary drinks that are known to contribute to weak cavities and tooth decays. This is why there is a high percentage of cannabis smokers that have caries. Marijuana smokers get hungry easily and consume all sorts of junk food.
Xerostomia is another common experience witnessed by cannabis smokers. It is widely known as “cotton mouth or dry mouth,” and caused by the dysfunction of the salivary glands. The THC in cannabis sends signals to the endocannabinoid receptor of the central nervous system to reduce the production of saliva when you’re smoking cannabis. Saliva is essential in having good oral health because it helps to flush out bacteria, breakdown food, prevents bad breath, slow down tooth decay, and prevent a high build-up of plaque.
After a long period of consistently smoking marijuana, your teeth get stained from the smoke. Even if you maintain good oral hygiene, you’ll still notice the stains on your teeth from the smoke. Your best solution could be a teeth-whitening treatment.
Increased Levels of Bacteria
Marijuana smokers are likely to have cavity-causing bacteria in their mouths. Recent studies revealed that the smoke from marijuana attacks the immune system in the mouth and increases your chances of having higher levels of bacteria in mouth cavities.
What are the Best Oral Hygiene Habits for Cannabis Smokers?
We have seen that cannabis smokers are prone to periodontal disease, tooth decay, cottonmouth, stained teeth, bad breath, and increased mouth bacteria. Now that you know some of the potential effects of smoking cannabis, here are some oral hygiene habits you can practice safely to minimize these effects.
Always stay hydrated: ensure you take enough water during the day. Drinking water frequently throughout the day will help keep your mouth hydrated even when there is no sufficient saliva in your mouth as a result of smoking. This can help to minimize your chances of having a dry mouth.
Floss and brush daily: as a chronic cannabis smoker, you must be more diligent when it comes to caring for your teeth. You must brush your teeth at least twice a day using fluoride toothpaste. You can minimize your chances of developing gum disease by flossing every day. This will help to remove the sticky film deposited by the cannabis smoke.
Reduce taking processed and sugary snacks: you must note that the more processed and sugary snacks you take, the more your chances of having tooth decay. As much as possible, go for tooth-friendly and tooth-healthy snacks. More so, staying away from sugary and processed snacks helps your mouth to stay hydrated.
Go for proper medical examination: you should visit your dental office for a thorough dental exam at least twice a year. This will help to detect early signs of cannabis effects on your oral health for proper treatment before it escalates.
Talk with a professional dentist: if you smoke cannabis regularly, you need to book an appointment with a professional dentist to help you understand the effect of it on your oral health so that you can take preventive measures on minimizing the negative effects.
Most of the known effects of cannabis on oral health are associated with smoking. More research needs to be done to ascertain the effects of edible cannabis products. If you must consume cannabis for any reason, we suggest you take the edible products for now rather than via smoking. This will help to protect your oral health and overall wellbeing.