Regular use of marijuana (cannabis) in young adulthood is associated with periodontal (gum) disease, according to a study in the February 6 issue of JAMA.1
Periodontal disease is one of the most common chronic diseases in adults, with inflammation that can extend deep into the dental tissues, causing loss of supporting connective tissue and possible loss of teeth. Tobacco smoking is recognized as the primary behavioral risk factor for the condition, and it is thought cannabis smoking may have a similar effect, according to background information in the article.
W. Murray Thomson, Ph.D., of the Dunedin School of Medicine,
At age 32 years, 265 participants (29.3 percent) had one or more sites with 4 mm or greater periodontal combined attachment loss (
Tobacco smoking was strongly associated with periodontal disease, but there was no interaction between cannabis use and tobacco smoking in predicting the condition’s occurrence.
“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,” the authors write.
“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.”
In an accompanying editorial, Philippe P. Hujoel, Ph.D., of the
“… Thomson and colleagues have reported findings indicating that smoking of tobacco and potentially cannabis are associated with evidence of destructive periodontal disease that can be detected in early adulthood, long before other smoking-related diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers become apparent. Given the high prevalence of dental care in the young population in the
1. JAMA. 2008; 299:525-531.
2. JAMA. 2008; 299:574-575.