Long-term cannabis use linked to periodontal disease

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Long-term cannabis use linked to periodontal disease

Researchers found that while long-term marijuana use is associated with poor periodontal health, it is not associated with several other physical health problems in early mid-life. (Photograph: Stanimir G.Stoev/Shutterstock)
Dental Tribune International

Dental Tribune International

二. 21 六月 2016


DUNEDIN, New Zealand: The health benefits and adverse effects of marijuana use have long been discussed by doctors, scientists, politicians and society at large. However, the overall effects of cannabis on a person’s health are still not fully understood. According to a new study, long-term use (up to 20 years) of cannabis is associated with poor periodontal health. However, unlike tobacco use, it is not associated with several other physical health problems in early mid-life.

The study, conducted by an international team of researchers, investigated whether cannabis use from age 18 to 38 was associated with physical health problems at age 38. The scientists used data from 1,037 individuals born in New Zealand between 1972 and 1973 and followed to age 38 in the context of a multidisciplinary health study in Dunedin in New Zealand.

The researchers assessed certain measures of physical health, such as lung function, periodontal health, systemic inflammation and metabolic health, including waist circumference, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, glucose control and body mass index. The participants reported their cannabis use at ages 18, 21, 26, 32 and 38. Of all the participants, 484 had ever used tobacco daily and 675 had ever used cannabis.

The tobacco users had a higher risk of developing periodontal disease too, but also showed systemic inflammation, indicators of poorer metabolic health and reduced lung function. “We can see the physical health effects of tobacco smoking in this study, but we don’t see similar effects for cannabis smoking,” said Dr Madeline Meier, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University in the US. She conducted the study together with colleagues at Duke University in the US, King’s College London in the UK and the University of Otago in New Zealand.

While study participants who had used marijuana to some degree over the last 20 years showed an increase in periodontal disease from age 26 to 38, they did not differ from non-users on any of the other physical health measures. The statistical analysis found that the decline in periodontal health in marijuana smokers was not explained by tobacco smoking, alcohol abuse, or reduced toothbrushing and flossing. The lack of physical health problems among cannabis users was also not attributable to their having had better health to begin with or to living healthier lifestyles.

However, the researchers stressed that the findings should not be interpreted as implying that cannabis use is harmless. “We don’t want people to think, ‘Hey, marijuana can’t hurt me,’ because other studies on this same sample of New Zealanders have shown that marijuana use is associated with increased risk of psychotic illness, IQ decline and downward socioeconomic mobility,” Meier said. Previous research has found too that cannabis use is associated with accidents and injuries, bronchitis, acute cardiovascular events, and possibly, infectious diseases and cancer.

“What we’re seeing is that cannabis may be harmful in some respects, but possibly not in every way,” said study co-author Dr Avshalom Caspi, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke.

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Terrie Moffitt from Duke added that “Physicians should certainly explain to their patients that long-term marijuana use can put them at risk for losing some teeth”.

The study, titled “Associations between cannabis use and physical health problems in early midlife: A longitudinal comparison of persistent cannabis vs tobacco users”, was published online on 1 June ahead of print in JAMA Psychiatry.

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