A 2017 study out of Columbia University made a connection between cannabis and gum disease that many hadn’t considered before. In the study, researchers looked at surveys from over 1,900 people about their cannabis consumption (including hashish and cannabis oil) and dental health. They found that cannabis consumers had more markers of periodontal disease than non-consumers and infrequent cannabis consumers did.
But were the results reliable? And what about cannabidiol (CBD)? Was this cannabinoid lumped in with cannabis rich in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)? Let’s take a closer look at a few studies to see whether CBD is good or bad for your gums.
What Is Gum Disease?
When you think of the dentist, you may only consider your pearly whites. But any good dental professional will pay close attention to your gums, too. You may be surprised to learn that there’s thought to be a link between bad gums and a host of serious health conditions like:
- Artery disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
The theory goes that the bacteria from a gum infection can travel to other parts of your body, causing harm. Though more studies need to be done to prove a conclusive link between gum disease and other health conditions, it’s a theory that many health professionals keep in mind.
There are two main types of gum disease:
Gingivitis appears first, caused either by too much plaque (and poor dental hygiene that helps it stick around) or bad nutrition. In some cases, though, a virus, bacteria or allergic reaction can cause gingivitis.
The sometimes-painful symptoms of gingivitis can include:
- Inflamed, swollen gums
- Bad breath
- Bleeding when brushing or flossing
You can usually turn a gingivitis diagnosis around with regular brushing and flossing—though a good dental cleaning is often in order to get the gums to an ideal starting place before you take over at home.
Periodontitis is what happens when folks leave gingivitis untreated, and it turns into something more painful and serious. This is when plaque builds up, creates pockets around the teeth and bacteria gets trapped in there. It then wreaks havoc on gums, damaging the tissue and even the supportive bone below your teeth.
Periodontitis symptoms include:
- Bleeding gums
- Inflamed, red gums
- Receding gums
- Pain when eating
Like gingivitis, dentists recommend regular brushing, flossing and mouthwash as treatment—and, of course, regular visits to the dentist.
Columbia University Study Says Cannabis Is Bad for Gums
The Columbia University study, published in the Journal of Periodontology looked at self-reported data from a few years prior. The participants reported cannabis and tobacco use, and researchers took measurements of gum loss and depth.
Of the nearly 2,000 surveys they reviewed, around 27% of participants said they consumed cannabis recreationally at least once in the past year. (They separated out tobacco smokers so as not to skew the data.) And these people had more markers for periodontitis.
So, the headline read: Study suggests link between gun disease and cannabis use.
But self-reported studies should always be looked at with a bit of skepticism.
- Were the participants reporting the truth about their cannabis and tobacco consumption?
- What kind of cannabis were they consuming?
- Were they consuming mostly by smoking, which we know is not great for oral health?
- Or were they using smoke-free methods like cannabis tinctures or edibles?
All of these factors are important to know before putting out a blanket statement linking the plant to gum disease.
CBD’s Anti-Inflammatory Properties May Be Good for Gum Health
There are also studies that say the opposite when it comes to gum health and CBD, specifically. We know that CBD is a potent anti-inflammatory. And since inflammation is a big symptom of gingivitis and periodontitis, you’d think that CBD could help calm inflamed gums—and studies back this up.
In a 2009 study performed on rats, researchers divided the subjects into three groups: a control group, a group with gum disease and a third group with gum disease that was treated with CBD. The group that researchers gave CBD to showed less bone loss and inflammation in their gum tissue.
Another lab-based study looked at the endocannabinoid anandamide. Anandamide, produced naturally by the body, is very close structurally—and how it acts in the body—to THC. Researchers found that the endocannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, were present in gum tissue, and that anandamide seemed to decrease inflammation.
So, not only is the receptor (CB2) that interacts with CBD found in the gums, but CBD also increases anandamide levels in the body. It does this by stopping the enzyme that breaks down anandamide. So, more anti-inflammatory CBD in your system means more gum-soothing anandamide, too.
How to Incorporate CBD Into Your Oral Health Routine
It goes without saying that a smokeless CBD consumption method is best if you want the cannabinoid to help prevent gum disease or ease the symptoms of an infection you already have. And this includes vaping, too. Though it’s not thought to be as harmful as smoking is, vaping may irritate already-tender and inflamed gums.
Your best bet may be a CBD tincture, placed directly under the tongue and held in the mouth for at least a minute (or as long as you can keep it there). Alternately, you can add the tincture in the drink of your choice.
A method where you hold the CBD in your mouth for a minute or so is one of the best ways to ensure a high percentage of cannabinoids make their way into your system. This is because the mucous membranes in the mouth are very porous and so can make more CBD available to your body quickly.
The best way to treat your gums is with regular brushing, flossing, a good antibacterial mouthwash and a visit to your dentist at least twice a year. But if you have a history of gum disease, or you’re particularly interested in preventing gingivitis and periodontitis, add some CBD oil to your daily routine to keep bacteria and inflammation away.
Photo credit: Daniel Xavier
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