Columbia University dental researchers have found
that frequent recreational use of cannabis
(including marijuana, hashish, and hash oil)
increases the risk of gum disease.
Jaffer Shariff, DDS, MPH, a postdoctoral resident in
periodontology at Columbia University School of
Dental Medicine (CDM) and lead author, noticed a
possible link between frequent recreational cannabis
use and gum disease during his residency at a
community-based dental clinic in Manhattan.
“It is well known that frequent tobacco use can
increase the risk of periodontal disease, but it was
surprising to see that recreational cannabis users
may also be at risk,” said Dr. Shariff. “The recent
spate of new recreational and medical marijuana laws
could spell the beginning of a growing oral public
Dr. Shariff and colleagues from CDM analyzed data
from 1,938 U.S. adults who participated in the
Centers for Disease Control’s 2011-2012 National
Health and Nutrition Examination Survey,
administered in collaboration with the American
Academy of Periodontology. Approximately 27 percent
of the participants reported using cannabis one or
more times for at least 12 months.
Periodontal exams focus on a patient’s gum tissue
and connection to the teeth.
Among other assessments, periodontitis look for
plaque, inflammation, bleeding, and gum recession.
The clinician uses a probe to measure the space
between teeth and their surrounding gum tissue.
Healthy gums fit a tooth snugly, with no more than
one to three millimeters of space, known as pocket
depth, between the tooth and surrounding gum tissue.
Deeper pockets usually indicate presence of
Among the study participants, frequent recreational
cannabis users had more sites with pocket depths
indicative of moderate to severe periodontal disease
than less frequent users.
“Even controlling for other factors linked to gum
disease, such as cigarette smoking, frequent
recreational cannabis smokers are twice as likely as
non-frequent users to have signs of periodontal
disease,” said Dr. Shariff.
“While more research is needed to determine if
medical marijuana has a similar impact on oral
health, our study findings suggest that dental care
providers should ask their patients about cannabis
Commenting on the study, Dr. Terrence J. Griffin,
president of the American Academy of Periodontology,
said, “At a time when the legalization of
recreational and medical marijuana is increasing its
use in the United States, users should be made aware
of the impact that any form of cannabis can have on
the health of their gums.”
Additional authors included Kavita P. Ahluwalia and
Panos N. Papapanou (Columbia University College of
For more infromation
Journal of Periodontology
Relationship Between Frequent Recreational Cannabis
(Marijuana and Hashish) Use and Periodontitis in
Adults in the United States: National Health and
Nutrition Examination Survey 2011 to 2012
Jaffer A. Shariff, Kavita P. Ahluwalia, and Panos N.
Columbia University College of Dental Medicine