Can marijuana use interfere with dental care?

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CHICAGO, USA: State legalization of marijuana began being introduced in 2012, and the use of personal and medical marijuana is on the rise in the United States. However, despite its legal and social acceptance, marijuana use continues to fuel great controversy. For example, in a dental office, marijuana has been shown to affect users’ oral health, and two new surveys by the American Dental Association (ADA) have shown that it can also interfere with dental treatment when patients arrive intoxicated for their appointments. In light of the findings, the ADA suggested that patients abstain from marijuana use before dental visits.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, marijuana is the most commonly used federal illegal drug in the United States. In 2019, around 48.2 million people in the United States used it. Recreational marijuana use is currently legal in 21 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia. Additionally, medical use is legal in 37 states, 3 territories, and the District of Columbia. Given the high numbers and as part of its trend research, the ADA studied how marijuana use may affect the treatment of dental patients.

Marijuana use before a dental appointment

The first online survey included 557 dentists and found that 52% of respondents had encountered situations where patients arrived for their appointments intoxicated by marijuana or another drug.

“When talking about their medical history, more and more patients are telling me that they regularly use marijuana because it’s now legal,” said ADA spokesperson Dr. Tricia Quartey. , a dentist in New York, in a press release. “Unfortunately, having marijuana in your system sometimes requires an additional visit,” she added.

“Marijuana can lead to increased anxiety, paranoia and hyperactivity, which could make the visit more stressful.”

According to the results, 56% of dentists surveyed also said they had to limit treatments to patients who were intoxicated. Since marijuana and anesthesia can also impact the central nervous system, 46% of dentists surveyed said they sometimes need to increase anesthesia to provide treatment.

“Marijuana can cause increased anxiety, paranoia and hyperactivity, which could make the visit more stressful. It can also increase heart rate and have unwanted respiratory side effects, which increases the risk to use local anesthetics to control pain,” Dr. Quartey noted and added that patients need to be able to think clearly to choose the best treatment.

Besides the general health effects, marijuana use has also been linked to poor dental hygiene, including dental cavities. “The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, makes you hungry, and people don’t always make healthy food choices under its influence,” Dr. Quartey explained.

Cannabis and vaping

The second survey included 1,006 consumers asked about marijuana and vaping use. It found that 39% of patients reported using marijuana, and smoking was the most common form of drug use. Additionally, 25% of total respondents reported vaping, of which 51% vaped marijuana.

“Smoking marijuana is associated with gum disease and dry mouth, which can lead to many oral health issues,” Dr. Quartey commented. “It also puts smokers at increased risk of mouth and neck cancers,” she added.

According to the data, 67% of patients said they were comfortable discussing marijuana with their dentist. Given the findings, the ADA recommends that dentists discuss marijuana use while reviewing patients’ medical histories during dental visits.

The organization also said it will continue research on marijuana use and oral health to provide clinical recommendations for dentists and patients.


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