Frequent Cannabis Use and Periodontal Disease
A recent study from Columbia University provides evidence that recreational marijuana use increases the incidence of gum disease and tooth loss.1 This is important research since marijuana use is becoming more and more popular, and many people consider it to be a “less harmful” alternative to alcohol, and other drugs. This study points out that the delivery mechanism of combustible inhalation carries with it inherent problems, whether tobacco, marijuana, or other inhalants.
1,938 participants were included in the study, and factors such as tobacco use were controlled. Cannabis users were still found more likely to have gum disease. The study determined that frequent smoking of marijuana can double a person’s risk of periodontal disease. Since periodontal disease is characterized by inflammation of the gum in a response to bacterial infection, it raises the question of how cannabis is affecting the immune system when smoked frequently.
Gum disease is considered to be a result of toxic accumulation and subsequent bacterial infection leading to inflammation which irritates the gums. The gum actually begins to separate from the teeth, forming pockets that are more prone to additional infection. Disease progression causes deeper and deeper pockets and further gum deterioration. Tooth loss is the inevitable end stage of disease.
End Goal is Awareness not Criticism
The end goal of this study is not to criticize marijuana use, which certainly has its medical and recreational uses, but to call into question the delivery mechanism. It also brings into light the importance of addressing the idea that marijuana is a benign substance.
- Shariff JA, Ahluwalia KP, Papapanou PN. Relationship Between Frequent Recreational Cannabis (Marijuana and Hashish) Use and Periodontitis in Adults in the United States: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011 to 2012. J Periodontol. 2017;88(3):273-280.
Node Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine amongst the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend campout where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.