Cannabis and The Dentist: What to Know
Read up on what dentists have to say before going to your next appointment.
In early November, the American Dental Association sent out a press release acknowledging what many reading this may already have assumed: “Half of Dentists Say Patients Are High at Dental Appointments.” This shouldn’t surprise anybody; very few people actually look forward to visiting their dentists, and many may avail themselves to a hit off a vape pen or a preroll before a cleaning or, heaven forbid, a root canal. However, the ADA’s press release frowns upon this pastime, most notably for its disabling effect on anesthesia. Forty-six percent of dentists shared that they had to increase the level of anesthesia applied to stoned patients in order to compensate for the disruption of the cannabis high. Thankfully 67% of the patients report feeling comfortable speaking with their dentists about their cannabis use, and the ADA also recommended to cooperate fully with the medical team of any patient using medical cannabis as well.
Aside from this, does cannabis have a place in dental health? This is a question that has been debated for years. While dentists have well-documented misgivings about smoking and sweets, research into the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties are ongoing, and there’s plenty of cannabis and hemp-based dental equipment for people to try out. But what is known about keeping your teeth healthy with cannabis? Here’s what we know.
Your Pearly Whites and The Leafy Green
It’s only been a few years since CBD dental products began to appear on the market. Now, even Colgate has a section on its website devoted to them, and it’s refreshingly optimistic. In particular, they seem to give a qualified recommendation for CBD oil for relieving dental anxiety. “Experiencing some form of nervousness before visiting a dental professional is totally normal, and CBD oil could be a natural way to calm your nerves before your appointment,” they suggest.
But could THC and CBD take their place alongside a toothbrush or dental floss in fighting cavities and plaque? Inquiries have been carried out both inside and outside the dentist’s office, and already some applications look promising. For instance, a 2020 study examined CBD-enriched polishing powder. Tooth polishing is often used to remove plaque and stains, and the study compared a CBD powder alongside a regular treatment, taking dental plaque samples before and after treatment and then analyzing the samples for “colony forming units” after being spread on an agar plate. As it turned out, the CBD samples exhibited a “significant reduction” in the colony forming units when compared with the regular powder, leading the researchers to conclude, “The CBD-supplemented polishing powder can help in effective removal and killing of dental plaque bacteria during the polishing treatment; it can also be added as an enhancing supplement to the existing polishing powders.”
This discovery builds on even older research that has found both CBD and THC to exhibit bactericidal activity against several types of bacteria, much of which form the biofilm that turns into nasty, unsightly plaque. As for products people can use at home, CBD toothpastes and mouthwashes have been marketed for holistic consumers that want a fluoride-free means of ridding their mouth of problematic bacteria. In addition, some CBD oils have been used as a means of reducing the difficult and painful inflammation that can arise from toothaches as well. Although none of these products have received the ADA seal of acceptance often used as the gold standard for dental consumer products, it might not even be a few more years until they do.
The Dentist's Lecture
Even if dentists seem broad-minded about CBD as a whole, they may warn against its side effects, such as potential adverse drug interactions. Dentists are also particularly leery of the munchies, since it tends to lead most stoners to consuming “cariogenic” (tooth decay-causing) snack foods. And of course, there’s dry mouth as well, which apparently from a dental perspective is bad since it may prevent the mouth from dissolving stray food particles and eliminating bacteria. Dentists will not likely be 100% on board with any of this.
That said, they know which way the wind is blowing. Many understand that cannabis is used as a medicine in many states, both for mental and physical health, so working with rather than against its use is crucial. So, if you are thinking of using any cannabinoid before going to the dentist, get the dentist’s advice in advance of your visit. You can always hold off. The cannabis will be there for you when you get back.