Thomson acknowledged that it's sometimes difficult to get people to accurately report illicit drug use. But, he's confident in this case that the use of marijuana was honestly reported, because this group has been participating in this study for so long and knows that its answers will remain confidential.
The researchers identified three marijuana "exposure" groups: No exposure, 32.3 percent; some exposure, 47.4 percent; and high exposure, 20.2 percent.
After adjusting the data to account for tobacco use, gender and a lack of dental care, the researchers found that those in the high-use group had a 60 percent increased risk of early periodontal disease, a 3.1 times greater risk of more advanced gum disease, and a 2.2 times increased risk of losing a tooth due to gum disease, compared to those who didn't use marijuana.
"We think that it is the same as with tobacco smoke: That is, the effect is not directly on the gums as smoke is inhaled. Instead, it acts through toxins being absorbed into the bloodstream via the lungs and then affecting the body's ability to heal itself after bursts of destructive inflammation in the gums," Thomson said.
The bottom line, he said, is "don't smoke, whether it's cannabis or tobacco -- it's not a rational thing to do, and it has far-reaching effects on your health."
If you're concerned about the health of your gums, Hujoel suggested that you avoid risk factors, such as smoking, and ask your dentist or periodontist what additional steps you can take to protect them. If you have early periodontal disease, he said that regular periodontal maintenance care is generally recommended, but there may be other treatments, depending on your individual periodontal health.
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