A new study in the February 6 issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) reports that regular use of marijuana in young adulthood is associated with periodontal (gum) disease.
A common chronic disease in adults, Periodontal disease begins with inflammation that extends deep into the dental tissues. This causes a loss of supporting connective tissue requiring painful surgery and the potential loss of teeth. Up until now, tobacco smoking has been considered to be the primary behavioral risk factor for the condition. It is now thought that cannabis smoking may have a similar, and possibly even stronger, effect.
W. Murray Thomson, Ph.D., of the Dunedin School of Medicine, Dunedin, New Zealand, and his colleagues conducted a study to determine whether cannabis smoking is a risk factor for periodontal disease. The study included 903 participants who were born in Dunedin in 1972 and 1973 and assessed periodically. The cannabis use from these patients was determined at ages 18, 21, 26, and 32 years and dental examinations were conducted at ages 26 and 32 years.
After controlling for tobacco smoking, sex, irregular use of dental services, and dental plaque, compared with those who had never smoked marijuana, those in the highest cannabis exposure group had a 60 percent increased risk for an onset of diseased gums.
Tobacco smoking was strongly associated with periodontal disease, but there was no interaction between marijuana use and tobacco smoking in predicting the condition’s occurrence.
The study demonstrates that long-term smoking of marijuana is detrimental to the periodontal tissues.
“Although definitively establishing the periodontal effects of exposure to cannabis smoke should await confirmation in other populations and settings, health promoters and dental and medical practitioners should take steps to raise awareness of the strong probability that regular cannabis users may be doing damage to the tissues that support their teeth," say the authors of the research paper.