ARIZONA, United States, Thursday June 2, 2016 – Hot on the heels of last week’s revelation that smoking marijuana can alter DNA comes the news that long-term use of the herb can make your teeth drop out.
A new study, commissioned by American policymakers to look into whether recreational marijuana use was associated with physical problems later in life, found that regular use caused gum disease, the leading cause of tooth loss.
The Arizona State University study found that using marijuana for as long as 20 years was linked with periodontal disease, a common condition in which gums swell and become sore.
The condition affects the tissues that hold the teeth in place, and can eventually cause them to fall out.
Many adults have gum disease to some extent, usually from middle age, but researchers found that smoking marijuana increased the likelihood of it occurring by early middle-age.
Arizona State’s Dr Madeline Meier and her colleagues looked at marijuana use data from 1,037 people born in New Zealand in 1972 and 1973 and followed them to the age of 38.
More than half of the participants were men, with 484 having used tobacco daily and 675 marijuana.
The researchers drew on self-reported and laboratory tests to look at gum health as well as lung function, systemic inflammation and metabolic health.
Although marijuana was associated with poorer gums, the study authors found that it was not linked to other health disorders.
They nevertheless noted its association in previous research with accidents and injuries, bronchitis, acute cardiovascular events, and, possibly, infectious diseases and cancer.
Separate studies have suggested that marijuana users brushed and flossed their teeth less frequently than non-users and were also more likely to be dependent on alcohol.
The Arizona State study, which was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, had a number of implications, according to Dr Meier.
“First, cannabis use for up to 20 years is not associated with a specific set of physical health problems in early midlife.
“The sole exception is that cannabis use is associated with periodontal disease.
“Second, cannabis use for up to 20 years is not associated with net metabolic benefits.
“Third, our results should be interpreted in the context of prior research showing cannabis use is associated with accidents and injuries, bronchitis, acute cardiovascular events, and, possibly, infectious diseases and cancer, as well as poor psycho-social and mental health outcomes.”
Previous research had shown that smoking marijuana regularly could even lead to gum disease in people in their early thirties.
One-quarter of people who had smoked the herb regularly from 18 to 32 years-old had established gum disease.