Young pot-smokers risk gum disease and tooth loss by the age of 32 or younger, a new study reveals.
Regularly smoking cannabis as a young adult can lead to early periodontal disease – independent of tobacco use – according to New Zealand researchers.
The research found that smoking cannabis more than 41 times a year from the age of 18 was linked to 36% of periodontal disease cases among people aged 26 to 32.
The study – seemingly the first to analyse the effects of pot smoking on dental health – appears in The Journal of the American Medical Association this month.
Cigarette smoking is already recognised as having the biggest influence upon the risk of periodontal disease.
Scientists tracked the smoking and dental habits of 903 people born in Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1972 and 1973.
They were asked about their cannabis use at ages 18, 21, 26 and 32 years, and dental examinations were conducted at ages 26 and 32, to measure new or worsening gum disease.
The study was conducted at New Zealand’s Dunedin School of Medicine’s dental department, with the most recent data collected in June 2005 from participants at age 32.
Researchers identified 182 participants as ‘high exposure’ having used cannabis 41 or more times a year, 428 as having some exposure, defined as 40 or less, and 293 identified as not using cannabis.
Usage was compared with the degree their gums had deteriorated.
They found the heaviest cannabis users had 60% greater risk than those who had never smoked, of having one or more sites with 4mm or greater loss of gum tissue.
Regular cannabis users were also 3.1 times more likely to have one or more sites with 5mm or greater of combined attachment loss, and 2.2 times increased risk for having new attachment loss.
The researchers concluded: ‘We found that, after controlling for tobacco smoking (the most important behavioural predictor) and other important confounders, regular exposure to cannabis smoke was strongly associated with the prevalence and incidence of periodontal attachment loss by age 32 years…
‘…health promoters and dental and medical practitioners should take steps to raise awareness of the strong probability that regular cannabis users may be doing damage to the tissues that support their teeth.’