Can a Dentist Tell If You Smoke Weed?
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Besides being an all-around, feel-good drug, marijuana has proven to be effective in treating nausea, anxiety, sleep disorders, and chronic pain. It’s also used to treat a whole slew of diseases.
Despite its benefits, however, weed users still get a bad rap from some, particularly if they use it for recreational purposes. Between that and the fact that marijuana use remains illegal on the federal level, many users prefer not to share with their doctors the fact that they use weed.
Some even go so far as to ask, “Can my doctor tell if I smoke weed?”. And that’s a shame. Because if you want the very best medical care, you should be completely forthright with your doctor about all your health and lifestyle choices.
But what about dentists? Can they tell if you smoke weed? And should you be equally forthright with your dentist?
How Does Smoking Weed Affect Your Oral Health?
According to the American Dental Association, smoking weed is associated with several periodontal complications. However, the exact cause of each is hard to pin down due to the fact that many regular weed users also use tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs, and they also tend to practice poor oral hygiene.
On top of that, weed users are less likely to regularly visit a dentist. Hopefully, you’re an exception!
Let’s take a look at some of the most common oral health complications:
Xerostomia or Cottonmouth
Ever experience cottonmouth after smoking weed? Yuck. Your mouth feels completely devoid of saliva. That’s because it is.
If you get cottonmouth, also known as xerostomia, you have THC to blame for it. Without getting too technical, THC binds to certain receptors in your mouth’s submandibular gland causing a decrease in the production of saliva.
And that’s a bad thing.
Saliva fills several important roles in your mouth by both curtailing the growth of bacteria and neutralizing acids. It also helps prevent bad breath, works to break down food, slows tooth decay, and keeps plaque at bay.
With less saliva production, your risk of gum disease, cavities, and inflammation increases. Not good.
Tooth Enamel Damage
Just like smoking tobacco, the enamel on your teeth can become stained over time by smoke. In addition, that same smoke will work in conjunction with the water in your mouth to form acids.
And with less saliva in your mouth to neutralize those acids, they will slowly work on demineralizing and eroding your enamel.
As long as we’re on the subject of smoke, it should go without saying that marijuana smoke can not only harm your teeth but also your throat and respiratory system.
Weed has its benefits, but it also contains irritants that can cause harm to your respiratory tract–a fact that can become especially obvious if you ever try to smoke old weed. Gargling regularly with a mouthwash, one made specifically for dry mouth, can help both relieve a sore throat and address issues that arise from decreased saliva production.
We’ve learned earlier that THC causes the production of saliva in your mouth to become reduced. But it also causes a domino effect that leads to other problems.
As noted, saliva slows the growth of bacteria in the mouth, and with less of it at work, bacteria can readily multiply and increase the incidence of gum disease and inflammation.
When you’re high and experiencing the “munchies”, what do you typically reach for? It’s probably not carrot and celery sticks.
THC stimulates the appetite while causing the body to release dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that makes any food eaten seem all the more delicious. It goes a long way to explain its usefulness for cancer, AIDS, and anorexia nervosa patients who can benefit from weight gain.
Unfortunately, the high sugar content of your favorite sweet-and-salty snacks doesn’t do much for your teeth. Add to that the increasing demineralization of your tooth enamel, the outer protective layer of your teeth, and you’re opening the door wide for tooth decay. Ouch!
Oral Hygiene Maintenance Tips for Weed Smokers
You shouldn’t have to trade your healthy smile for the cerebral benefits you get from weed. And if you practice good oral hygiene you don’t have to.
The following is a list of practices, which by the way, are good for you whether or not you use:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day
- Use a fluoride mouthwash – It not only helps remove excess bacteria, but it can be good for your throat as well!
- Floss every day – It will provide extra protection for your gums
- Cut back on sugary drinks and snacks – How ’bout them carrot and celery sticks?
- Drink plenty of water – Hydration is good for you and will help fight cottonmouth
- Switch out your marijuana use with occasional edibles
- Maintain regular visits to your dentist
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Okay To Use Marijuana Edibles While Getting Dental Implants?
Hopefully, if you’re going to have dental implants, your dentist is fully aware that you’re a smoker. If not, you should make sure he’s informed.
Why? Your dentist will tell you to stop smoking.
Smoking interferes with the healing process. What’s more, the act of inhaling smoke creates a vacuum in the mouth that can pull out the blood clot from the empty space left by your missing tooth, which will lead to a dry socket.
This can then expose the nerves and bone below to infection. In addition, that vacuum can dislodge the implant’s post and cause the implantation to fail.
But if you think switching to edibles is a good, short-term solution, think again.
While ingesting marijuana in edible form might be safer than smoking it, you’re still taking in THC, and as we know, that causes your submandibular glands to reduce saliva production. You might as well hang a sign in your mouth welcoming in bacteria.
Additionally, it’s common practice for patients to be put under anesthesia during implant surgery and it may not be clear how that medication might interact with your marijuana use. Marijuana tends to dilate blood vessels which can cause blood pressure to drop.
You don’t want yours to drop to unsafe levels.
Dental implants are not inexpensive, so if you want the procedure to be effective, it’s best to cease your use of cannabis in any form a few weeks before, during, and for a reasonable period of time afterward. Talk to your dentist about what’s best.
How can I maintain my oral health while smoking weed?
Smoking weed and snacking pretty much go hand in hand. So if you want to maintain your oral health while smoking, it’s best to have some healthier, non-sugary snacks on hand. Combine that with good overall oral hygiene practices like daily brushing, flossing, drinking water, and using mouthwash and your teeth and gums will thank you for it.
Can A Dentist Know You Smoke By Your Teeth?
Face it. Whether you smoke tobacco or weed, the heat and smoke you take into your mouth will, over time, cause your teeth to discolor making you a good candidate for teeth whitening treatments.
Brushing your teeth with baking soda or whitening toothpaste can help with the problem, but it may not solve it completely. That being said, a dentist may gather that you smoke after taking a look at your teeth but he won’t likely know whether it’s tobacco or weed.
Finally, Will Your Dentist Know that You’ve Been Smoking Weed?
If you smoke weed regularly, chances are the aroma is going to linger on your clothes, in your car, or anywhere else you partake. So if it’s important to you that your dentist not know about your marijuana use, make sure you do some thorough cleaning.
Beyond that, any oral hygiene issues you have as a result of smoking weed are the same that one might experience from smoking tobacco. More importantly, if you practice good oral hygiene and give your gums that extra TLC they’ll require, your dentist might even praise you for being so diligent in your care.
By why not be straight with your dentist? It’s not just important to do so if you’re getting implants or having any other type of oral surgery.
Just like a primary care physician, if your dentist has a full picture of all your health and lifestyle choices, she can provide you with the very best of care.
And isn’t that what you want anyway? – A healthy mouth and a healthy smile!