Using cannabis after dental work shouldn't cause any major harm – in fact, it may help with pain and inflammation! But it may also cause cottonmouth, so it's advisable to be cautious with your intake. Furthermore, chronic, heavy cannabis use may have some adverse effects on dental health. Let's take a look at what we know...
There have been a handful of studies over the years that point to a negative association between cannabis use and dental health. Recently, a long-term study followed 1037 individuals over a number of years to compare the long-term health effects of cannabis and tobacco – and it found that cannabis had little overall negative impact on health, but “was associated with poorer periodontal health at age 38 years and within-individual decline in periodontal health from ages 26 to 38 years”.
So, even after controlling for tobacco use, the study found that periodontal (gum) health could be affected by cannabis use. At least one other study has noted an apparent association between cannabis “abuse” and poor dental health:
“Generally, cannabis abusers have poorer oral health than non-users, with higher decayed, missing and filled (DMF) teeth scores, higher plaque scores and less healthy gingiva. An important side effect of cannabis is xerostomia. Thus, chronic use of cannabis may increase the risk of caries.”
However, there have not been enough studies to fully provide a consensus on the effects of cannabis on dental health. In any case, these are long-term effects that may arise from heavy, regular use. People use cannabis in dozens of different ways, for recreational and medicinal purposes, regularly and occasionally, according to their individual requirements.
If you are a heavy, regular user, it may be advisable to reduce or cease your cannabis use, if you are experiencing a decline in your dental health. But if you are an light or occasional user, you may derive benefits from using cannabis after dental work, and you may avoid any risk associated with long-term, heavy use.
The second study we quoted mentioned: “An important side effect of cannabis is xerostomia. Thus, chronic use of cannabis may increase the risk of caries”. So what does this mean?
“Xerostomia” simply means dry mouth, while “caries” are cavities in the teeth that occur as acids break down the hard enamel and dentin. In normal conditions inside a healthy mouth, the flow of saliva helps to counteract the action of acids on the tooth enamel. Saliva has a neutral or slightly alkaline pH, so it can help to neutralize acids present in the mouth; it also contains antibacterial enzymes that can destroy the bacteria that produce acids.
Thus, if your mouth consistently suffers from reduced flow of saliva due to cannabis use, you may be increasing your risk of dental caries. Furthermore, if you use enough cannabis after dental work to cause cottonmouth, you could heighten the risk of infection if you have any open cuts in your gums.
On the other hand, small quantities of cannabis after dental work could provide some benefits. Cannabis is well known for providing pain relief, as well as bringing feelings of relaxation and subjective improvements to mental well-being – which may be just the thing one needs after a traumatic session at the dentist! In particular, if you experience serious post-surgery pain after dental surgery, cannabis could provide significant relief without the need for opioids or other high-strength pharmaceutical painkillers.
Furthermore, cannabis is well-known for possessing anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, which may provide some benefit after dental work, which often leaves the patient with sore, inflamed gums. However, if you have a tendency to periodontitis (gum disease), cannabis use may present more risk than benefit.
It is advisable to use cannabis via a means other than smoking or vaping it – such as eating edibles or canna-capsules, or infusing into a warm drink. Smoking cannabis is well-known for causing dry mouth, and anecdotal reports suggest that vaping can be have just as powerful an effect – if not more in some cases. Any method of cannabis consumption can cause dry mouth, as THC acts directly on the cannabinoid receptors in the salivary glands, but it may help to keep contact with oral tissues to a minimum.
Don’t use too much cannabis, to improve your chances of preventing dry mouth.
Go for varieties that contain CBD along with THC (and not too much THC!). THC is the cannabinoid responsible for causing dry mouth, while CBD is well-known for reducing inflammation. Both THC and CBD are known to have antibacterial properties, and to be useful means of controlling pain.
Make sure to drink plenty of water or other fluids (but avoid alcohol and very sugary drinks).
Avoid use with bleeding gums, and consider avoiding use altogether if you have a tendency to gum disease.
Eating or infusing is probably better than smoking or vaping, in terms of avoiding dry mouth.
Don’t smoke tobacco.
Let us know what you think of this advice in the comments section. Have you used cannabis for pain relief after dental surgery? Or have you experienced any adverse effects of long-term cannabis use on gum health? Let us know!