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Half of Dentists Say Patients Arrive to Checkups Stoned, Survey Finds

The American Dental Association (ADA), which is urging cannabis-users to abstain from using cannabis prior to their appointments, has found that so many have adopted this strategy. A recent survey also found that 52 percent of dentists reported having patients arrive at appointments with high levels of cannabis use.

Two surveys were conducted to uncover the findings: one surveyed 557 dentists, and another surveyed 1,006 people nationally. The ADA conducted both surveys as part of their trend research, suggesting that the increase in recreational and medicinal marijuana use is the reason for the observed trend. 

As dentists talk through patients’ health histories, Dr. Tricia Quartey, a New York dentist and ADA spokesperson, said that more have disclosed their use of cannabis since it became legal.

“Unfortunately, sometimes having marijuana in your system results in needing an additional visit,” Dr. Quartey said in an ADA media release. Research shows that high-functioning marijuana can make it difficult for dentists to provide the best care possible. 

A survey of dentists revealed that 56% restricted treatment to patients with high blood pressure. Due to how anesthesia and cannabis affect the central nervous systems, 46% said they have had to occasionally increase anesthesia when treating patients who are very high.

“Marijuana can lead to increased anxiety, paranoia and hyperactivity, which could make the visit more stressful. It can also increase heart rate and has unwanted respiratory side effects, which increases the risk of using local anesthetics for pain control,” Dr. Quartey said. “Plus, the best treatment options are always ones a dentist and patient decide on together. A clear head is essential for that.”

The ADA also notes that cannabis users are more likely to have “significantly more” cavities than non-users, particularly due to the foods consumers often crave after a smoke sesh.

“The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, makes you hungry, and people don’t always make healthy food choices under its influence,” Dr. Quartey said. “Medically speaking, munchies are real.”

The ADA generally cites the “strong indications” that smoking cannabis is harmful to oral, and overall, health. Research is continuing to uncover the link between edible and topical cannabis use and oral health.

Quartey explained that smoking marijuana can result in dry gums and gum disease. This could lead to additional oral health concerns. Quartey also stated that smoking marijuana can increase the risk for mouth cancer and neck cancer.

According to the poll’s second, 39% reported using cannabis. Smoking was their most frequent form. Another 25% of the respondents vape, while 51% smoked cannabis. 

In addition, 67% said that they felt comfortable speaking to their dentists about cannabis. This is because the ADA encourages them to discuss cannabis with patients while also reviewing patient’s health information. 

“If we ask, it’s because we’re here to keep you in the best health we can,” Dr. Quartey said. “If you use it medicinally, we can work with your prescribing physician as part of your personal healthcare team.”

The ADA called for more research into cannabis and oral health. This affirms its determination to keep an eye on the science, and offer clinical advice for dentists as well as patients. 

If you want to maintain your oral health and keep cannabis users happy, the ADA advises a daily routine that includes twice-daily fluoride toothpaste brushing, flossing every day, regular dental visits, healthy snacks, and routine cleanings.