honey patel

i am a dentist with bachelor's degree. i will be soon pursuing masters in health care management.

Cannabis is affecting your oral health. Read How.

4 September 2021

With the increasing prevalence of cannabis abuse in India, it is imperative to stress on health implications of it. The usage of marijuana is of major concern particularly in a country like ours where oral health is neglected with zero to nil awareness about its significance to overall well-being.

In this article, you can expect to find the potential impacts of frequent usage of cannabis on oral as well as mental health. We are going to discuss How much substance abuse affects both oral as well as mental well-being.

Before that, what is cannabis? It is a plant or group of plants that are taken in various forms to induce hallucination as recreation. Although it can be taken in the form of eatable or inhalation, the most common form of consumption is smoking. Marijuana is usually mixed with tobacco in order to obtain a synergistic effect and also, to make it smokable. Users also consume compounds like alcohol and other drugs concomitantly.

Let us look into the possible side effects of marijuana.

  1. leukoedema

Due to chronic irritation of oral mucosa through smoke, it swells to develop greyish white lesions. It is due to increased keratin formation subsequent to mucosal irritation. However, this does not have the potential to form into neoplasia.

  1. Effects on salivary glands

Research suggests there might be an association between smoking cannabis and affected saliva production. It is clear that substance smoking leads to dryness of the mouth or xerostomia. However, the specific mechanism behind this is still unclear. This condition agitates the oral cavity by resulting in painful ulcers, major salivary gland swelling and infection, cracking of lips and many other problems resulting from the decreased salivary flow.

  1. stomatitis

Inflammation of the oral cavity is termed as stomatitis. Sore mouth is common among frequent abusers. It exaggerates irritation in the tissues of the mouth inviting different kinds of infections as well. Stomatitis alone is as painful and hampers oral hygiene maintenance. Apart from that, it causes problems with food intake due to the development of painful ulcers. Stomatitis along with decreased saliva may worsen the condition.

  1. Tooth decay

The compounds in cannabis namely tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol increase appetite leading to heavy snacking after smoking. Frequent snacking along with poor oral hygiene( common in frequent cannabis smokers) results in dental cavities. Since there is a craving for sweet foods, it will lead to caries. Other concomitant factors like mental health, xerostomia and tobacco smoking further reinforces the link between marijuana and caries.

  1. hyperkeratosis

Similar to the etiology of leukoedema, there is heightened keratin production due to inflammation from cannabis and smoke. These are definitive white patches with occasional occurrences of dull burning sensation. At this stage, hyperkeratosis has the potential to convert into premalignancy if the causative agent is not eliminated. Prolonged oral film exposure to external irritations leads to a defensive increased thickness of keratin layering.

Not only is the mineralized tooth structure affected, but supporting structures that make up periodontium are negatively influenced by hemp.

Listed below are the periodontal components which seem to be altered by drawing on cannabis.

  • gingiva(gums)

Data indicate bad gingival health in the majority of people. Gums are enlarged due to agitation from smoke, heat and probably toxic compounds released from the hash. This impacts cleansing and hygiene maintenance as swollen gums impede brushing and other hygiene practices. In addition to that, pigmentation of the gingival membrane due to chronic habit raises esthetic concerns.

  • Periodontal ligament detachment

The periodontal ligament is fibers that link the tooth to the surrounding bone. Smoking in general increases attachment loss. Loss of attachment creates loose space due to absence of fibers in that particular area which is then called ‘pocket’. The pocket formation can have several consequences like harboring unhealthy bacteria, food clogging, gum inflammation and bone loss. However, there is no direct relation yet established between marijuana and bone loss. This condition is called ‘periodontitis’.

Due to chronic THC and CBD exposure, premalignancy can develop in the oral mucous membrane. Premalignant conditions are pathologies that possess potential to develop into neoplasia. Such precancerous lesions that appear from long-term exposure to concomitant factors like tobacco and hash smoking, compromising dental health, poor nutrition and positive medical history are namely leukoplakia, erythroplakia and candidiasis.

How is your Mental health at stake?

Cannabis suppresses alter several systemic responses such as immunity, cardiovascular system, respiration and nervous system. Cardiac responses are heightened as it raises blood pressure. Hence, respiration is interfered with. Since breathing becomes fast in most cases due to cardiac alterations, there is induced anxiety and paranoia.

Chronic cannabis abusers show symptoms like irritability, insomnia and psychosis.

In nations where such substances are legalized, it is often advisable for people who recreationally enjoy smoking marijuana to seek interval dental check-ups to prevent developing serious ailments. It is not recommended to smoke these substances if you are already receiving psychological therapy or psychiatric aid.

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