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Oral Health and Cannabis Use

Author: Katherine MacMillan

Cannabis can be used for recreational, medicinal, and industrial purposes (American Dental Association, n.d.). In 2017, the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drugs Survey reported that 33% of Canadians ages 20 to 24 years old had used cannabis in the previous 12 months (Government of Canada, 2019). While cannabis provides some benefits for some medical conditions, it largely can lead to detrimental effects on oral health.

Smoking cannabis is associated with an increased risk of developing leukoplakia, which presents as thick white patches on the gums, cheeks, base of the mouth, and occasionally the tongue (Mayo Clinic, 2018). Unfortunately, these patches cannot be scrubbed away (Mayo Clinic, 2018). Additionally, there is a risk of developing cancers of the mouth, as the smoke contains many toxic chemicals (Public Health, 2019). Mouth cancers are commonly found close to leukoplakia patches as well (Mayo Clinic, 2018).

If you are a regular cannabis user, you are also more prone to tooth decay, accumulation of plaque on your teeth, and gingivitis - another form of gum disease in which plaque accumulates and irritates the gums (Crest, n.d.; Public Health, 2019).

Cannabis can also cause dry mouth, leading to complications such as difficulty chewing and swallowing (Public Health, 2019). Due to the decreased presence of saliva, it also increases the risk of tooth decay and gum disease (Public Health, 2019). However, this may be overcome through drinking water frequently.

From a cosmetic standpoint, smoking cannabis also causes staining of the teeth and bad breath (Public Health, 2019).

In conclusion, it is important to be mindful of the possible negative effects that cannabis can have on your oral health if you participate in cannabis use.


American Dental Association. (n.d.). Cannabis: Oral Health Effects . American Dental Association. Retrieved October 23, 2021, from

Crest. (n.d.). What is gingivitis? symptoms, causes, and treatments: Crest. Crest Toothpaste and Oral Hygiene Products. Retrieved October 23, 2021, from

Government of Canada . (2019, December 13). Canadian Cannabis Survey 2019 - Summary. Retrieved October 23, 2021, from

Mayo Clinic. (2018, March 6). Leukoplakia. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved October 23, 2021, from,the%20mouth%20or%20mouth%20cancer.

Public Health. (2019, May 2). Your mouth on cannabis: Our oral health team joins the cannabis conversation. WDG Public Health. Retrieved October 23, 2021, from


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