A new collaborative research study has determined that cannabis consumption is not associated with major health problems such as lung function, systemic inflammation and metabolic health. However, cannabis consumption was associated with poorer periodontal health.
Researchers from Arizona State University, Duke University and the University of Otago in New Zealand performed a longitudinal study on a group of 1,037 New Zealanders. Starting at the age of 26, scientists tracked the habits and health of the participants from the age of 18 through 38.
All in all, scientists could not identify a statistical association between smoking cannabis and any major health problems, except periodontal health. Tobacco-smokers had poorer health all around: reduced lung function, poor metabolic health and an increased risk of periodontal disease. Though this study represents a major “I told ya so” for pot advocates who have always claimed cannabis does not cause any major health problems, but the mainstream media has put its blinders on the one negative aspect found in this study: periodontal health.
Even after adjusting for dental hygiene habits and tobacco smoking, pot smokers still had poorer dental health than those who never touched the stuff. Given that most cannabis consumers on an individual basis already know that ganja does not affect their health in any major way, this study’s conclusion that cannabis negatively affects dental health may seem quite alarming.
If you smoke cannabis or not, it’s always a good idea to brush three times a day or more, floss daily, use a fluoride mouthwash and visit the dentist every six months for an X-ray and a cleaning to prevent oral health problems. However, people should take this latest study’s conclusion with a grain of salt, especially since the researchers were not able to prove that cannabis was single-handedly causing a decline in periodontal health. Dry mouth is common side effect of smoking cannabis, but is that enough to make your teeth fall out?
For starters, the study used “self report” data on substance consumption and dental hygiene, meaning the only information about people’s habits came from what they were told. Embarrassed about not brushing their teeth enough (but conscious about the fact that they should have been), cannabis consumers may have over-reported their dental hygiene habits. This potential for misinformation could have hidden the reality that it was the cannabis smokers’ poor hygiene habits that was causing their decline in periodontal health, not the consumption of cannabis.
In New Zealand (just like in Australia, Europe, South America, Africa and the Middle East) people mix their cannabis or hashish with tobacco and smoke it in a “spliff.” In addition to the fact that most of these New Zealanders mixed their cannabis with tobacco before smoking it, many will also smoke cigarettes on a regular basis. This entanglement between the two plants likely created some error in the statistical calculations of the study. People that smoke these “spliffs” may not even consider themselves tobacco smokers, and may not have told the researchers that they consume any tobacco. Given that tobacco can undeniably cause a significant decline in oral health, further research would have to take great care to separate cannabis consumption from that of tobacco.
Anti-pot advocates are always quick to jump to conclusions, and the most naïve members of the populace easily fall into their bandwagon without asking questions. Further research on this topic is certainly necessary. Even if researchers eventually determine that cannabis can actually cause a decline in periodontal health, the fact will still remain that cannabis is safer than alcohol, tobacco, opiates, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, amphetamines, cocaine, etc.
Photo Credit: Randy P. of The Oregon Breeders Group