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What Role Does Cannabis Play in Oral Health?

For many people, oral health is on the lower end of importance despite it having a huge impact on overall health and how we present ourselves to the outside world. Poor oral health can lead to bad teeth, gum disease, and other far-reaching issues, so it is worth keeping in mind when making medical decisions. For this reason, medical marijuana’s effect on the tissues in the mouth are often questioned, and, maybe surprisingly, the answers are more complex than you may think. 

If you currently live in Ohio and have any questions about becoming a legal medical marijuana patient or caregiver, we can help you find the answers you need! At DocMJ we make medical marijuana recommendations both easy and affordable. Take our pre-qualification exam today to find out instantly if you pre-qualify for your Ohio medical marijuana card. 

Why is Oral Health Important?

Often overlooked until it is too late, good oral health is vital to high quality of life. While some people may associate poor oral hygiene with bad breath, that is only one of the many serious problems it can cause. To start, the mouth is the first place of contact for food, drinks, and certain medicines. It is also a place that is often affected by medications, such as those that can cause dry mouth, inflammation, and even raise the risk of infection in the cases of some inhalers. 

Even beyond cosmetic problems, poor oral health has been linked to an increased risk of developing conditions such as endocarditis, cardiovascular disease, and pneumonia. Many of these problems are due to foreign bacteria entering the body. One of the reasons this can happen is because when we brush our teeth, use mouthwash, and floss, we are actually reducing the number of germs and bacteria in our mouth, not just removing food debris or scrubbing away stains. 

That isn’t to say we want all bacteria to be killed, there are lots of bacteria in our mouths at any given moment, and that’s a good thing. A lot of the bacteria in our mouth actually help us. But, when some strains become dominant or new strains are introduced, We are at a higher risk of disease [1]. This is similar to the gut, where “good” bacteria help us digest and break down food, but if those bacteria become too abundant, we can have digestive issues. 

How Does Marijuana Affect The Mouth?

Many people who have used marijuana are familiar with one of the effects marijuana has on our mouths, it can cause dryness. Commonly called cottonmouth, xerostomia was originally thought to be caused by the thick smoke that marijuana produces when burned. However, now that vaping marijuana is much more common, we know that that isn’t the case. It is actually believed to be caused by activation of cannabinoid receptors on specific salivary glands [2]. When these receptors are activated, like when we inhale marjuana smoke or vapor, the glands respond by producing less saliva, resulting in dry mouth. While this may sound benign, dry mouth has been linked to periodontal disease, higher rates of bacterial infection, and tooth decay [3].

For people who already have cavities or periodontal disease, it is not recommended to smoke or vape marijuana pockets, not only due to the dry mouth it can cause, but the introduction of smoke or vapor into cavities or pockets in the gums may also increase the risk of infection. The smoke may also irritate tissue, causing inflammation and redness. At later stages, this inflammation can cause edema and chronic swelling. Smoke and vapor can also cause surface-level stains to appear on the tongue and teeth, which can be brushed off, but may cause permanent discoloration if the user is not practising good oral hygiene. 

Overall, marijuana can have a big impact on oral health, and it is important to foster good habits if you are at risk of any problems. For people who have cavities or gum disease, using other forms of medical marijuana, such as tinctures or edibles may be recommended. There are many forms of medical marijuana available, and it is important to consider all of them and how they can affect you and your body when taking marijuana.

In Summary

Oral health is much more important than many people think. Poor oral hygiene can lead to tooth decay, periodontal disease, and even heart attacks. This is why brushing and flossing are so important. Medical marijuana can also have an effect on oral health. Smoke and vapor from marijuana pens can cause dry mouth and inflammation in people with poor oral health. When using medical marijuana, it is important to consider which form is best for you. If you want to know more about medical marijuana, or need help finding an affordable Ohio medical marijuana doctor, DocMJ is here to help! Our website offers answers to frequently asked questions, more blog posts, and an eligibility survey which can tell you if you may instantly pre-qualify for a recommendation!


[1] Probiotics and oral health: A systematic review

[2] Inhibition of Salivary Secretion by Activation of Cannabinoid Receptors – Juan Pablo Prestifilippo, Javier Fernández-Solari, Carolina de la Cal, María Iribarne, Angela M. Suburo, Valeria Rettori, Samuel M. McCann, Juan Carlos Elverdin, 2006 

[3] Caries Prevention for Patients with Dry Mouth | jcda