Marijuana Mouth: Worse Than Meth Mouth?

Meth's not the only drug that can destroy a healthy, bright smile.

Kim is 38-years-old; she had been smoking weed since college. Her dentist could tell. Kim had a bad case of gingivitis. Her gums were swollen and red. Her long-term use of marijuana had wrecked her dental hygiene. If nothing changes, Kim’s mouth will only worsen.

Also in his late 30’s, Mark was in his 20th year of marijuana use. The smoking had taken its toll. His smile was ghastly. Over time, the drug had caused periodontitis (an inflammatory disease that attacks the structures that support the teeth.) This began as the gingivitis Kim experienced, and progressed to the point that Mark’s gums pulled away from his teeth. His gum tissue was destroyed and his teeth began to fall out. He now has painful, swollen gums and holes where his teeth used to be. He will likely need dentures before he turns 45.

A recent study revealed that Kim and Mark most likely represent the “norm” among long-term marijuana users. Researchers found that persistent marijuana use for up to 20 years was associated with greater risk of periodontal disease.

What Does Marijuana Do to Your Mouth?

Kim, Mark and countless others end up with marijuana mouth for several reasons. Let’s take a look at three of the most common:

  • First, the Tetrahydrocannibol (THC) found in marijuana interferes with calcium absorption. Guess what your teeth need to stay strong? That’s right – calcium. With enough THC over the years, we might find ourselves in Joe’s shoes:



    Joe drank milk almost every day. He also liked to snack on cheese. These top sources of calcium might have kept his teeth healthy, but Joe also smoked marijuana every day. Through his consistent use of pot, Joe counteracted every glass of milk he ever drank. Lacking the calcium they needed, Joe’s teeth suffered severe decay. In fact, his dentist bought a shiny new sports car with the fees from Joe’s fillings and root canals.

  • Second, previous studies have shown that heavy marijuana use more than triples the likelihood of gum disease. It’s no wonder Kim and Mark were having such dire dental problems.

  • Third, marijuana users often suffer from another common side effect: the munchies. With an insatiable urge to eat all the junk food in the kitchen, the munchies virtually guarantee heavy sugar consumption. Eating a lot of sugary or fatty foods without proper follow-up dental care can quickly result in marijuana mouth. In a matter of months, users can end up with cavities and, shortly thereafter, periodontal disease sets in.

Is it Really Worth the Rot?

Gum disease. Missing teeth. Painful gums. Clearly, meth isn’t the only drug that can ruin your mouth. Still, most marijuana users aren’t thinking about their dental hygiene 15 or 20 years from now. But considering the potential effects, maybe they should.



Image Source: iStock