There is a common assumption that cannabis users suffer permanent damage to their teeth. Yellowing, tooth decay, and weakened enamel are all assumed to be exacerbated by consistent cannabis use, but how much of this is assumptions versus actual fact? Research has proved that both alcohol and tobacco use are detrimental to your pearly whites, but cannabis has been around for just as long. In this article, we’ll tackle some difficult questions backed by research to prove just how harmful cannabis is on your teeth. Be sure to have your toothbrush handy as we dive into this difficult topic on cannabis as it directly relates to your oral health. Let’s begin!
The Research Behind Cannabis And Tooth Decay
A study in 2016 focused on cannabis users in New Zealand who had smoked for over 20 years. While certain physical aspects like BMI, lung function, cholesterol, and blood pressure were all unaffected, the teeth and gums were significantly impacted. The study concluded that the mere act of smoking cannabis, or rather, the smoke itself, was the culprit behind the decline in tooth health.
The American Dental Association states that the act of smoking, specifically the inhalation of the smoke, as the root cause behind gingivitis, inflammation of the oral mucosa, and gum spots. Regardless if the inhaled smoke is from cannabis or tobacco, the teeth and gums especially are severely irritated by the harsh acrid smoke. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) also confirms that any form of smoke can cause periodontal problems. Yet there has not been any research to confirm that cannabis itself (as opposed to the smoke) is responsible for tooth decay.
Other Ways That Cannabis Can Damage Your Teeth
Aside from the smoke from cannabis products causing issues with your dental health, there are other factors that may cause an issue with your dental health. These may occur in various forms of cannabis products as well as how often you consume said products. Let’s take a closer look at some of those now.
We discussed in a previous article why drymouth occurs; the inhalation of the smoke effectively dries your mouth out by reducing the amount of saliva produced normally. As the mouth dries out, your teeth are not as well lubricated and may become more susceptible to stains. The decrease in saliva can make it more difficult to prevent the growth of bacteria and limits the mouth’s natural ability to neutralize acid. You may also be more prone to cavities, mouth and lip inflammations, and extreme cases, gum disease and gum overgrowth.
One of the most beloved side effects of getting high is the increase in appetite as well as an enhanced sense of taste. More often than not, the foods that are craved are high in calories, sugar, and carbs (i.e., think pizza, cookies, and chips). With less saliva available to break down sugars and carbs, there is a higher risk for cavities as food gets trapped in and on your teeth. If you’ve snacked on something acidic like pizza or soda, that acid can eventually break down your teeth enamel. Add an acidic beverage first thing in the morning like coffee or orange juice, and your teeth enamel is well on its way to erosion.
Another side effect of many cannabis strains is drowsiness. If you start to feel sleepy while high, it can be very tempting to put your nighttime teeth routine on hold until the morning. You may just want to sit on the couch and treat yourself to delicious snacks while enjoying the richly sedating effects that eventually lead to knocking out. Unfortunately, that means that the sugar and food particles from said snacks will remain in/on your teeth until you remember to brush your teeth the following morning.
Ways To Limit Tooth Deterioration
If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed by the amount of ways that cannabis can damage your teeth, there are some things you can do to limit the deterioration. These tips won’t necessarily prevent the overall tooth decay, but can help slow the onset of certain problems.
There’s something incredibly attractive about getting high in a matter of minutes, especially if the high is short-lived and still potent. Inhalabes like flowers and pre-rolls are attractive in that they can be smoked like traditional cigarettes and joints. Yet as we learned in the first paragraph, the smoke from inhalables is more detrimental than other product forms, such as gummies or tinctures.
Keep On Keepin’ On!
First and foremost, you should stay on top of your current tooth maintenance. Dentists recommend brushing your teeth after every meal, but this isn’t always possible. Try to brush your teeth frequently to help limit the damage from certain foods as well as to prevent stains from becoming permanent. Drink plenty of water to keep your mouth hydrated, especially before and during your high. If you’re already prone to drymouth (even before getting high), there are several hydrating mouthwashes that can help keep your mouth moist.
Encourage Saliva Production
You might be hard-pressed to find a dentist to recommend chewing gum, but some studies have found that chewing sugar-free gum can actually be beneficial. The physical act of chewing encourages mandibular exercise, while the chewing gum itself stimulates more saliva flow, can help clean your teeth by removing stubborn food particles, and can be effective in combating dry mouth.
Incorporate Other Cannabinoids
The hemp plant continues to surprise us with all the benefits of naturally occurring cannabinoids. Non-psychoactive cannabinoids such as CBG and CBD are thought to contain antimicrobial properties. More research is needed to confirm this, but more cannabinoids mean more benefits, especially if you believe in the entourage effect!
Consult Your Dentist
When in doubt, always ask the professionals. Dentists are extremely knowledgeable about the tooth health and warning signs of tooth decay. Regardless if you live in a cannabis-friendly state or not, your dentist may be able to offer more in-depth explanations on your periodontal questions. Regular teeth cleanings, check-ups, and product recommendations are strongly encouraged for healthy teeth, and are even more important for consistent cannabis users.
The answer behind whether or not cannabis itself is cause for concern in your oral health is unfortunately quite limited. Many studies show that the act of smoking is detrimental to your pearly whites, but it’s unclear whether smoking cannabis or tobacco is more harmful. Cannabis users as a whole are more prone to have poor oral health, and it's unfortunate that many side effects of cannabis like munchies, dry mouth, and drowsiness can exacerbate the decline of tooth health.
Yet with regular oral hygiene and hydration, it may be possible to limit the damage done to your teeth by consistent cannabis use. As always, be sure to consult with your dentist with any primary concerns regarding your overall dental health. The market for cannabis products continues to grow by leaps and bounds, but it’s thought that certain products are less harmful than others. Inhalables might get you high faster but the smoke from these products can irritate your teeth and gums. If you’re looking to preserve the overall health of your teeth, try to stick with edibles like gummies and tinctures.
Here at TwoHawk Extracts, we offer an extensive catalog of products for many psychoactive cannabinoids. Delta-8 THC, Farm Bill Compliant Delta-9 THC, HHC, and THC-O are available in gummies, tinctures, softgels, disposable vapes, and so much more. We’re confident you’ll find something that fits your lifestyle on our shelf, and you can purchase with confidence knowing we use only the finest ingredients in our manufacturing process.
Still have questions or concerns? Let us know! You can reach us by email or phone, and a member of our experienced team will be delighted to help allay your fears and answer your questions. Check back soon for our next article, where we’ll be exploring which strains are more likely to make you feel the munchies. Until we meet again, fellow cannabis lovers!