Often touted as a safe and natural drug, cannabis, or marijuana, can still cause gum disease, according to a study from Columbia University. The study followed 1,900 recreational marijuana users over a period of one year and found that those who reported higher marijuana usage also had higher instances of gum disease.
Dr. Stephen Hill of Allen, Texas, says this isn’t much of a surprise, as smoking can weaken the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to the oral bacteria that cause gum disease.
"Smoking regular tobacco cigarettes can increase your risk of developing gum disease by 50 percent," says Hill. "Worse yet, the more frequently you smoke, and the longer you are a smoker, your risk increases further."
Studies have also shown that treatment for periodontal disease is less effective on smokers than it is on non-smokers, meaning a longer or stronger course of treatment may be required, and more permanent damage may occur in the meantime.
While the risk of developing gum disease can be lowered by proper oral health care techniques like brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day, Hill says the key to reducing risk is to quit smoking tobacco and marijuana.
"Casual smokers who smoke less than once a week will be at a lower risk than regular smokers, but why take that risk?" says Hill. "Smoking cigarettes is legal, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you, and if you’re in an area where marijuana is legal, there are alternatives to smoking that will not increase your risk of periodontal disease."