Oral Health and Pot Use Concerns

Frequent pot users seem more likely to display signs of gum disease.

Frequent pot users seem more likely to display signs of gum disease than those who abstain or smoke pot less often.

The effect of marijuana on oral health is unclear due in large part to its status as a controlled substance. That alone has stalled much research on the plant’s uses for years.

Science has shown that cigarettes cause a slew of potentially fatal diseases. But they have yet to show a direct link between regular pot use and any single health condition.

A recent study at Columbia University (CU), though, suggests that people who smoke pot often may be at an increased risk for gum disease.

Who the Team Looked At

CU researchers led by Dr. Jaffer Shariff enlisted 1,419 Americans who had not used cannabis one or more times per month throughout the last 12 months. The study also had 519 people who had used pot at least once per month in the same period.

The team took variables such as income level, alcohol use and tobacco use into account. Each participant had a dental exam to look for symptoms of gum disease. These include plaque, inflammation, bleeding, and gum recession.

Interpreting the Results

The team found that frequent pot smokers were more likely to display signs of moderate to severe gum disease than those who had abstained or those who had used pot less often in the last 12 months.

“Even controlling for other factors linked to gum disease, such as cigarette smoking, frequent recreational cannabis smokers are twice as likely as non-frequent users to have signs of periodontal disease,” said Dr. Shariff.


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The researchers aren’t sure what it is about pot use that could reduce oral health. Some ideas include the fact that smoking pot can dry out the mouth, and gums need saliva in order to stay healthy. Pot users may also be less likely to seek health services of any kind.

Dr. Shariff plans to do more studies that might shed some light on pot and its link with oral health.

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