Frequent pot smokers might be dooming themselves to diseased gums, a new study suggests.
"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 [pot] users may also be at risk," said study lead author Jaffer Shariff. He is a postdoctoral resident in periodontology at Columbia University School of Dental Medicine.
For the study, Shariff's team analyzed data from nearly 2,000 Americans. Of those, 27 percent reported the use of cannabis (marijuana, hashish or hash oil) one or more times for at least 12 months.
Frequent recreational cannabis users were more likely to have signs of moderate to severe gum disease than less-frequent users, the researchers found.
"The recent spate of new recreational and medical marijuana laws could spell the beginning of a growing oral public health problem," Shariff said in a university news release.
"Even controlling for other factors linked to gum disease, such as cigarette smoking, frequent recreational cannabis smokers are twice as likely as non-frequent users to have signs of periodontal disease," Shariff said.
The association seen in the study doesn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
However, in light of the findings, dentists should routinely ask their patients about pot smoking habits, Shariff suggested.
Another gum disease expert agreed that doctors and patients should be aware of the dangers that pot smoking may pose to dental health.
"At a time when the legalization of recreational and medical marijuana is increasing its use in the United States, users should be made aware of the impact that any form of cannabis can have on the health of their gums," said Terrence Griffin, president of the American Academy of Periodontology.
The study was published recently in the Journal of Periodontology.