Medical Marijuana and Oral Health
Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 11/03/2017 in Ailments and Conditions
Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Your teeth and mouth are two essential parts of your body. They help you eat and speak — two incredibly vital life skills!
As a comprehensive marijuana health source, we would be remiss to skip over the details about maintaining oral health while using cannabis.
Fortunately, keeping your mouth and teeth healthy while medicating with marijuana is simple. Many of the principles have to do with standard oral hygiene and an awareness of cannabis’ effects on your mouth.
Does Cannabis Harm Your Oral Health?
We still don’t know for sure if marijuana harms your oral health. The information we have so far points to marijuana putting you at slightly more risk of oral health issues, but we need more research to say for sure.
If you’ve read some of our other pages, you may have heard us discuss the research we have on marijuana. Since federal law considers cannabis illegal, scientists have a difficult time getting approval for researching it.
The few studies we have so far suggest marijuana users have poorer oral health than people who don’t consume it. But, good science involves getting as much unbiased data as possible to draw a conclusion, which we don’t have right now. Regardless, any problems can be alleviated by maintaining regular dental hygiene.
Tobacco vs. Marijuana
Even though marijuana may have a small impact on your mouth, it does nowhere near as much damage as tobacco. Tobacco contains more harmful components than cannabis, even when it’s smoked.
Tobacco has a much higher risk of causing oral cancer than weed does. All tobacco products contain highly carcinogenic compounds called nitrosamines. On the other hand, marijuana reduces tumor growth!
So, when folks say marijuana has as much of a risk of harming your mouth as tobacco, they believe the rumor that tobacco use and marijuana use are the same. In fact, marijuana has the potential to cause little to no side effects, especially if you choose specific methods of use.
Marijuana and Dry Mouth
While we can’t say for sure how much marijuana affects your oral health, we do know that one of its side effects can cause problems if left unaddressed. Dry mouth from cannabis use can put you at risk for oral health issues.
Marijuana gives you dry mouth by attaching to the cannabinoid receptors in your mouth and reducing how much saliva you make. The lack of saliva makes your mouth susceptible to problems like:
- Dry skin at the corners of your mouth
- Sore throat and swallowing issues
- Difficulty speaking
- Excess dental plaque
- Bad breath
The most prominent concern surrounding dry mouth is its risk of excess plaque accumulation. When you have too much plaque, it’s easier to get cavities or gum disease.
With all that said, dry mouth isn’t unique to medical marijuana — tons of other medicines can cause it, too. Plus, if you take the right precautions, you don’t have to worry about it at all.
How to Keep Your Mouth Healthy When Using Marijuana
To prevent damage to your teeth and gums from marijuana use, you should mainly tackle the source of the damage — dry mouth. When you reduce the occurrence of dry mouth, you can reduce the chance of developing severe symptoms. Plus, getting rid of your dry mouth will make you feel much more comfortable.
The simplest and most logical way to manage your dry mouth is to drink extra fluids. For the most benefits, you should drink water — sugary drinks have empty calories and carbohydrates, and carbonated beverages can dehydrate you further.
As a patient with dry mouth, xylitol is your new best friend. Many sugar-free gums and candies have xylitol in them, which stimulates saliva production. Some mouthwashes also have xylitol in them to promote dental health.
You should also avoid alcohol and tobacco use to keep your saliva production up. We already know that tobacco can cause cancer, so you should always avoid using it if possible. And keep in mind — even mouthwashes with alcohol in them can dry your mouth out.
Coffee and tea also have the potential to dehydrate your mouth. The caffeine in coffee and tea makes the beverages dehydrate you instead of hydrate you. In addition to caffeine, tea contains tannin, another saliva-zapper.
The Most Teeth-Friendly Weed Medications
When it comes to oral health, some types of medical marijuana products promote it better than others. Each state has different regulations on what dispensaries can sell, so some of the mentioned products may not be available where you live.
Any kind of marijuana medication that doesn’t come in direct contact with your mouth is the least likely to cause any oral health issues — think medicine like pills, patches and topicals. While the marijuana in pills and patches eventually circulates to your mouth, it provides a milder effect.
Your next best bet is probably smoking or vaping if you take care. Smoking involves putting hot, dry air in contact with your mouth, so sip water if you decide to light up. Vaping uses vapor that doesn’t dehydrate your mouth, but it can still contain a few toxins associated with charring.
If you know anything about edibles, you may understand that the most popular ones come in dessert form. Edibles like the classic “pot brownie” contain tons of sugar, which teeth bacteria love to feed on. However, more savory edibles with less sugar can provide less potential oral damage.
More Resources for You
Check out these pages to get more info on medical marijuana and your health:
- Marijuana News and Blog: We regularly update our blog with news and updates in the world of medical marijuana and overviews of specialized topics.
- Qualifying Conditions: Medical marijuana can treat a huge list of conditions — we’ve compiled them for you.
- Look for a Dispensary: Find your area and browse the marijuana dispensaries available to you.
- Find a Doctor: Research the available marijuana-friendly medical practices in your area.