Rebecca Goldin, Ph.D and Jenna Krall
A recent study of pot smokers revealed that they have significantly increased cases of periodontitis. But are marijuana users really known for their good brushing habits?
As reported by the Washington Post, heavy pot smokers are 60% more likely to develop early gum disease. The study claimed to “account for tobacco use, gender and a lack of dental care.” However, in this study, dental care refers to regular visits to the dentist, not daily brushing. Dental plaque was measured (and controlled for), but brushing habits were not considered. In other words, the Post didn’t take into account that pot smokers might not brush their teeth as often as the American Dental Association recommends (or as much as those who don’t smoke).
The Post also reports that “heavy marijuana users have as much as three times the risk of developing serious gum disease compared to those who haven’t smoked pot.” The implication is that smoking pot causes gum disease (as smoking tobacco is well-known to do). Putting aside the illegality issue, the article implores people to stop smoking marijuana for their own health.
In terms of finding a “causal pathway,” it may well be that smoking pot lowers people’s willingness or interest to take care of their teeth by brushing and flossing (and hence quitting pot would improve your gum health). It’s also possible that those less interested in their teeth are more interested in pot.
In sum, though this article suggests that smoking pot causes gum decay, it is entirely possible that heavy marijuana users are simply unconcerned for the well-being of their gums.