As part of the battle over legalization  of marijuana use in California and across the country, people have been disputing whether marijuana causes the same negative health consequences as tobacco. Now a new study shows that the two types of smoking share at least one common consequence: gum disease.

Surveys and Lab Tests in New Zealand

These results come from an analysis of a large cohort of people in New Zealand who were asked about their habits, and underwent laboratory tests from birth in 1972 or 73 until the age of 38. The cohort included 1037 individuals, 535 of whom were male. Of these individuals 484 had used tobacco daily at some point in their lives, while 675 had ever used cannabis.

Laboratory tests included measurements of heart function, lung function, systemic inflammation, and metabolic healthy. People also reported various health measures in a survey at the same time as laboratory tests, at ages 26 and 38.

They found that cannabis smoking was associated with poorer gum health at age 38, even after controlling for  the amount of cigarette smoking. Prolonged cannabis use even made gum disease worse at age 38 after controlling for the oral health measured at age 26. Cannabis use, it seems, had a more negative effect on oral health than tobacco use.

However, cannabis use was not associated with other problems that were common to tobacco use. This includes worse lung function, systemic inflammation, and metabolic disorders.

There were some factors that likely contributed to the poorer oral health among cannabis users. Cannabis users were more likely to be dependent on alcohol, and tended to brush and floss less often than other members of the cohort. So, it’s possible that these other factors had a higher impact than was accounted for.

Implications for Cannabis Users

This study is a reminder that cannabis use is not without its health consequences. In particular, it seems to contribute to gum disease risk, and if it really turns out to be more serious than tobacco, we will likely see more people with receding gums and tooth loss in California as marijuana use continues to expand.

It’s important for cannabis users to make sure that they are continuing to perform proper oral hygiene and avoiding other dangerous habits that can synergize with cannabis use to lead to tooth loss. We have yet to see a study that evaluates the effect of cannabis use on dental implant success rates, but we expect it won’t be good.

If you are looking for a Beverly Hills periodontist that can help you manage risks related to cannabis or other lifestyle choices, please call (310) 275-5325 for an appointment at the office of Nicolas A. Ravon, DDS, MSD.