Study Will Examine Effects of Cannabis on Indigenous People’s Oral Health

June 18, 2020
Avatar for Kelley MingusKelley Mingus

If you are a cannabis smoker or know someone who is, one question you may ask yourself is what is the impact of cannabis on one’s oral health. The truth is, just because cannabis is natural and does not contain chemicals like cigarettes do, smoking cannabis can still harm your oral health. While we do know cannabis can cause issues like dry mouth and periodontal disease (also known as periodontitis or gum disease), long-term effects are not frequently discussed. But that’s exactly what a new study by the University of Toronto aims to do: find out the long-term effects of cannabis on the oral biome – more specifically on the oral health of indigenous people.

The study will be conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto in Canada and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, also in Toronto, over a five-year period. The university was recently awarded a $1.5 million grant to conduct the research by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Dr. Kelley Mingus of Bend, Oregon, says it will be interesting to follow the study and see the researchers’ findings.

“We already know that cannabis does have some effect on the oral biome, but the dental community is excited to see what exactly this effect is, and if it is any different on indigenous populations than it might be on non-indigenous populations,” Mingus says.

Mingus says it will also be interesting to see what effects this may have on indigenous populations in Canada, as these populations tend to have much higher instances of disease and health problems than non-indigenous populations.

The study will monitor not only the condition of the participants’ teeth and gums, but also instances of precancerous lesions on the mouth, head, neck and throat. It will also monitor any changes in the function of the subjects’ oral and facial senses.

Here in America, cannabis is legal in some states and the District of Columbia, as it is in Mingus’ home state of Oregon. Mingus says patients who smoke cannabis should treat it as though they are smoking cigarettes when it comes to their oral health.

“Make sure if you are smoking anything you are brushing your teeth after smoking,” he says. “This will help keep your teeth from staining and keep your breath fresh, but it may also help reduce some of the negative effects of smoking on your gums. If you experience dry mouth, keep hydrated or use a moisturizing mouthwash.”