Study finds getting high will kill your smile

June 3, 2016

Getting high may mean new lows for dental health: A recent study has found that cannabis users suffer from higher rates of periodontal disease than their weed-free peers.

Getting high may mean new lows for dental health: A recent study has found that cannabis users suffer from higher rates of periodontal disease than their weed-free peers.

Researchers from Arizona State University studied the relationship between pot-smoking and physical health problems over the course of 20 years to see if there was a correlation between increased medical issues and marijuana use. The study included 1,037 participants born in Dunedin, New Zealand in the 1970s, and examined them until the age of 38. Study participants were assessed on the frequency of marijuana consumption and dependence at the ages of 18,21, 26, 32 and 38.

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Researchers measured participants overall oral and physical health with laboratory measures, as well as self-evaluations completed by the participants. 675 of the study participants reported that they had used cannabis. Those who smoked marijuana between the ages of 18-38 had poorer periodontal health at the study’s conclusion at age 38.

“We found that marijuana is associated with adverse effects,” says study author Madeline Meier, an assistant professor in the psychology department at Arizona State University.

Researchers are not sure what causes the correlation, but suspect that it may be related to dry mouth, which is common among marijuana smokers and can create a breeding ground for oral bacteria.

While cannabis was found to be a factor in poor periodontal health, researchers found that marijuana use was unrelated to other physical health problems in midlife, such as lung function, higher levels of inflammation and metabolic health. The study did not examine participants for long enough to determine whether pot use increased the risk for later-in-life oral health problems.

“Unlike tobacco smoking, cannabis smoking is associated with few physical health problems in midlife, with the exception of periodontal disease,” Meier states in a recent release. “Physicians should convey to patients that their cannabis use puts them at risk for tooth loss.”

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These findings dovetail with a 2008 study, which discovered a correlation between periodontal combined attachment loss (a sign of irreversible periodontal disease) and cannabis use. That study, “Cannabis smoking and periodontal disease among young adults,” examined three cannabis exposure groups (no exposure, some exposure and high exposure). Ultimately, 23.6 percent of high-exposure participants in the high-exposure group had attachment loss, as opposed to 6.5 percent in the no-exposure cohort.

Other recent research by Meier and colleagues discovered that in addition to contributing to poor oral health, marijuana use could affect IQ and socioeconomic mobility.

Meier’s full study, “Associations between cannabis use and physical health problems in early midlife: A longitudinal comparison of persistent cannabis versus tobacco users,” was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.