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Cannabis and Vaping – Effects on Your Oral Health

February 17, 2020

On January 1, 2020, Illinois became the eleventh state to legalize recreational marijuana. And with these new changes, dental health care providers will be the first to witness any changes to their patients’ oral health care. Cannabis users generally have poorer oral health than non-users, with an increased risk for dental cavities and periodontal diseases. This is because smoking causes dry mouth, which reduces salivary flow and the amount of plaque accumulation on teeth increases. Studies indicate, cannabis smoke acts as a carcinogen and is associated with dysplastic changes and pre-malignant lesions within the oral mucosa. Users are at a higher risk for oral infections, perhaps due to the immunosuppressive effects.

Additionally, cannabis affects almost every system of the body, particularly the cardiovascular, respiratory and immune systems. It is important for patients, who use cannabis to inform their dental health care providers about usage, because they can experience acute anxiety, dysphoric and psychotic-like paranoiac thoughts. Also, if there is a need for local anesthetic which contains epinephrine, it may cause prolonged tachycardia.

Although, vaping is promoted as a safer alternative to regular cigarette smoking, there are still some negative side effects. Vaping pens and other vaping devices can reach extremely hot temperatures that can cause burning in the mouth. These pens contain oils and chemicals that are not safe to be inhaled, leading to respiratory diseases. To date, the CDC has reported an epidemic of “severe lung disease” caused by vaping. Patients have presented with a range of symptoms, including shortness of breath, fever, cough, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness and chest pain following the use of vaping devices.

If you’re currently smoking, vaping, or using recreational marijuana, it is a good idea to do self checks at home. When in front of a mirror with good lighting, evaluate the lateral borders, top and bottom of your tongue for any color changes of lesions. Examine the roof of your palate as well, by gliding your finger across it and checking for any bumps. Inspect the inside of your cheeks and lips as well, feel around your face and neck as well. If you have any questions or concerns, please make sure to ask your dental health care provider at your next cleaning and examination appointment.

Long term effects of cannabis and vaping are still to be seen. Moderations and sensibility are definitely important, so proceed with caution.

Make sure to discuss your recreational habits with your hygienist and dentist. Together we can minimize and even prevent side effects, keeping you smile healthy for life!


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