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“Recreational Cannabis,” Used Often, Increases Gum Disease Risk

Columbia University dental researchers just released a study that says people who frequently use recreational cannabis — including marijuana, hashish and hash oil — increase their risk of gum disease.  The Journal of Periodontologypublished these findings.

Periodontal (gum) disease is an inflammatory reaction to a bacterial infection below the gum line.  Left untreated, gum disease can lead to receding gums and tooth loss.  Long standing periodontal disease also has been associated with non-oral health issues, from preterm labor during pregnancy to heart disease.

Jaffer Shariff, DDS, MPH, a postdoctoral resident in periodontology at Columbia University School of Dental Medicine was the lead author of the study.  He noticed a link between frequent recreational cannabis use and gum disease during his residency at a community-based dental clinic in Manhattan.  “It is well known that frequent tobacco use can increase the risk of periodontal (gum) disease, but it was surprising to see that recreational cannabis users may also be at risk,” said Dr. Shariff.  He believes the recent spate of new recreational and medical marijuana laws could signal the beginning of a growing oral health problem.

As of March 2017, twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that legalize the use of marijuana in some form.  Seven of those states and the District of Columbia have adopted the most expansive laws legalizing recreational use.  Next year, more states are likely to pass ballot issues legalizing the drug.  Currently, Missouri does not allow any legal use of marijuana.  Under a pilot program approved in 2013, Illinois does allow marijuana to be used for medicinal reasons.  However, when state legislators return to the capital in January, they’ll consider bills to decriminalize recreational use of the drug, in part, to help solve the state’s fiscal crisis.  They believe broadening the use of pot could bring in $350 million in tax revenue every year.

Any use of marijuana is illegal under federal law.

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