According to a recent study conducted by Murray Thomson, PhD, of Sir John Walsh Research Institute, and associates, smoking cannabis is linked with periodotal disease in young adults. It has been long known that tobacco is a risk factor for periodontal disease, but research on cannabis in this regard has been limited. The study was composed of 1015 individuals born at Queen Mary Hospital in Dunedin, New Zealand who received dental exams at ages 26 and 32. Each of the participants were administered questioners about their cannabis use and as a result were divided into three categories, those who had no exposure (32.3%), some exposure (47.4%), and high exposure (20.2%). The study found that those who were categorized as having high exposure to cannabis experienced 23.6% incident attachment loss. The researchers reported that there was “no interaction between cannabis use and tobacco in predicting the condition’s occurrence.” The following is an excerpt of the study from The Journal of the American Medical Association:
The study’s demonstration of a strong association between cannabis use and periodontitis experience by age 32 years indicates that long-term smoking of cannabis is detrimental to the periodontal tissues and that public health measures to reduce the prevalence of cannabis smoking may have periodontal benefits for the population. To our knowledge, no previous studies have examined this relationship, so there are no data with which to compare the findings. Determining whether the association exists in other populations should be a priority for periodontal epidemiological research. The nature of the biological mechanism for the observed association is currently unclear. The periodontal effects of tobacco smoke are thought to occur via the systemic effects of nicotine and other toxic constituents on immune function and the inflammatory response within the periodontal tissues. Cannabis contains more than 400 compounds, including more than 60 cannabinoids; the noncannabinoid constituents are similar to tobacco (except for nicotine), and those have been reported to carry systemic health risks and have histopathological effects that are similar to those of tobacco smoke.21-22
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.