There are many myths out there about marijuana, and as a person who whole-heartedly supports the movement towards re-legalization and decriminalization of cannabis, I feel that it's important to get the facts straight. So in this Factoid, let's go over a very popular myth that continues to be circulated by the dental, medical and governmental industries.
MARIJUANA MYTHS: Does Smoking Cause Periodontal Disease or Tooth Decay?
So, is it true? Does smoking marijuana cause periodontal disease or tooth decay? Well, the answer isn't as straight forward as you might think. The truth is that it isn't necessarily the marijuana that causes tooth decay or dental issues. It is one of the side effects of THC that can advance oral problems when combined with poor dental hygiene and a sugary diet.
This happens because one of the most common side effects of using marijuana is dry mouth, also commonly known as "cotton-mouth". Having a dry mouth means that your production of saliva becomes limited, and saliva is very beneficial for keeping your teeth clean because it neutralizes bacteria and plaque that create an acid that attacks your teeth. THC also has a very beneficial side effect that increases the appetite (affectionately known as "the munchies"). Though this is a beneficial side effect for many with medical maladies that create a decrease in appetite, it also has a down side, which is that it often creates the desire to consume sugary or high carbohydrate foods.
For an example, to aide in uncovering this myth, let's say that you have a person who brushes their teeth one time or less per day, who consumes mostly sugary or high carb junk foods. When that person smokes cannabis, it creates cotton mouth and then produces the munchies.
That person notices their dry sticky mouth, then goes to eat something sweet and likely picks a soda to drink, which then throws all sorts of sugars into their mouth, which activates plaque and dietary bacteria's to start the job of breaking down food.
Because this person isn't eating any foods that help clean the teeth (such as apples), and are not cleaning their teeth after they eat, those dietary bacteria's stay on their teeth and continue to eat up everything they come in contact with, including that persons teeth. The cycle then continues until the teeth are eaten up.
One of the biggest problems with marijuana smoking and tooth decay is not so much soda pop, but the eating of sugary foods, and the most popular food for those smoking marijuana is cereal. And cereal is certainly high in sugar.
Once high from smoking marijuana, there is a tiredness that shows up, and the need to go to sleep, right away. This going to sleep quickly means that the person smoking marijuana does not brush their teeth and will instead go to sleep, and this of course adds to tooth decay and problems.
In summary: Smoking marijuana itself does not cause periodontal disease or tooth decay, it the results of smoking marijuana that could cause periodontal disease and tooth decay.
However, THC (a cannabinoid compound in marijuana) in any form can accelerate tooth decay and oral distresses when combined with poor oral hygiene and an improper diet.