What Is the Correlation Between Marijuana and Gum Disease?

by | Mar 28, 2024

With marijuana becoming legal in more states and the push for federal legalization appearing practically on every ballot, more people than ever before are using marijuana. About 18% of Americans use the drug, with the majority of them smoking it.[1] What many don’t realize, though, is that there’s a correlation between marijuana and gum disease.

If you smoke or have smoked marijuana in the past, understanding your risk of periodontal disease is essential. Learn more about how marijuana might increase the risk of gum disease.

Understanding Gum Disease: Causes and Risk Factors

Gum disease refers to inflammation or infections of the tissues that support your teeth. The leading cause of this issue is plaque formation, a sticky film of bacteria, on teeth. Plaque can build up, harden, and form tartar, leading to gum disease.

Some of the most common symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Swollen gums
  • Red gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bad breath
  • Pain while chewing
  • Loose teeth
  • Receding gums

Risk factors can make you more likely to develop gum disease. The most crucial of these is smoking.[2] Smoking weakens your immune system, making it harder for your body to fight off the bacteria that cause gum disease and affect your oral health.

Gum disease begins as gingivitis. It causes your gums to become swollen and red and more likely to bleed when you brush or floss. You will likely feel no discomfort.

If you don’t receive treatment for gingivitis, you can develop periodontitis. This occurs when plaque seeps under the gum line, leading the bacteria to inflame the gums. If you don’t get the periodontitis treated, the problem progresses until the structures that support your teeth break down, resulting in tooth loss.

Marijuana and Gum Disease: Are You At Risk of Periodontal Disease?

The use of marijuana, especially smoking it, can negatively affect gum and dental health. It causes some of the same effects as smoking tobacco, including weakening your immune system so that your body isn’t as effective at fighting off infections. If you already have mild gum disease, smoking marijuana could prevent the gums from healing because of this exact reason.

Marijuana use can also lead to dry mouth.[3] This, too, is one of the most harmful effects of marijuana on your teeth and gums. Your saliva neutralizes many acids and even fights off bacteria, so having a dry mouth allows the bacteria to continue increasing.

The leading psychotropic agent in marijuana is THC, which is an appetite stimulant. It can lead you to consume foods that are high in sugar, potentially putting you at risk of developing cavities. People who have cavities are more likely to develop gum disease.

Another reason marijuana can put you at risk of developing gum disease is that it causes gingival enlargement and chronic inflammation of the oral mucosa.[3] Not only can this result in gum disease, but it can also potentially lead to the development of oral cancer. For people who smoke both tobacco and marijuana, the risks are double.

Marijuana itself tends to have immunosuppressant properties, leading to the uncontrolled growth of candidiasis, which is caused by a type of yeast called candida.[3] That, too, makes gum disease more probable.

Gum and Dental Care: Protecting Your Oral Health

Avoiding gum disease and maintaining your oral health doesn’t have to be difficult. For most people, it means brushing your teeth and flossing twice daily. Brushing your teeth helps to remove food residue and eliminate bacteria, while flossing helps to remove any leftover food particles between your teeth.

If you smoke — tobacco or marijuana — the best thing you can do for your oral health is quit.

Try to limit the amount of sugary foods and drinks you consume. Sugar feeds the bacteria that can cause so many oral health issues. If you do eat something with a lot of sugar, make sure to brush your teeth afterward.

You may also want to use a mouthwash, which helps reduce plaque and can even help prevent gingivitis.

It’s also essential that you have regular checkups with your periodontist. Gum disease can begin so subtly that it can be challenging to notice. Having an expert check for signs of oral health issues can make it easier to catch problems before they progress.

Prevent Gum Disease With Regular Checkups

Smoking tobacco or marijuana can be highly detrimental to your oral health. If you are in the habit of smoking, the best thing you can do for yourself is to turn to professionals for regular checkups. At Dental Implants & Periodontal Health of Rochester, we can help.

With a dedicated periodontist ready to assess your oral health, our team can guide you through any challenges you face with your gums. Don’t wait another day to get the help you need. Contact us at Dental Implants & Periodontal Health of Rochester by calling 585-685-2005.



[1] https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/data-statistics.htm

[2] https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/gum-disease

[3] https://www.ada.org/en/resources/research/science-and-research-institute/oral-health-topics/cannabis-oral-health-effects

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