Smoking pot? Your dentist wants to know

Vancouver dentist and cannabis researcher shares oral health concerns of marijuana

Once marijuana is legalized in Canada on Oct. 17, dentists don’t expect to see a significant increase in pot smokers in their chair, but they do want their patients to tell them if they smoke or eat the drug.

“A lot of patients are a little embarrassed. When you think about it, if you are nervous about dental work, it might be a time you consider using it and not telling your dentist,” Allan Hovan of the BC Cancer Foundation said.

RELATED: Entrepreneurs cook up edible pot products despite legalization delay

“It is important to tell your dentist, especially if you’re having invasive procedures that involve either IV sedation of drugs or local anesthetic.”

Last fall, Hovan wrote an article for the BC Dental Association about vaping and smoking marijuana. He found that while smoking marijuana is not as bad as smoking cigarettes, there’s still cause for concern in the oral health field.

READ MORE: Doctor’s orders: How to get grandma high for the first time

“Like cigarette smoke, it has a harmful effect on tissues over time,” he said. “People aren’t smoking 20 joints a day like they are with cigarettes, so the frequency of exposure, the time of exposure is dramatically less. But marijuana smoking, like cigarette smoking, over time, does lead to more dry mouth which can lead to more dental cavities, more gum disease, staining of teeth.”

READ ALSO: Parents, not just government, will talk to their kids about pot, Trudeau says

For dentists, the main concern is when patients come to their offices high. Most people smoking pot will experience a calming effect, Hovan said, but for some, they can become agitated — increasing their heart rate and causing them to bleed more during procedures. On the flip side, people who are relaxed after smoking marijuana might become too relaxed.

“Sedation effects can be exaggerated so that they achieve — unintentionally — a deeper state of sedation than the dentist or the patient wanted,” Hovan said.

READ ALSO: Legal pot price must be ‘competitive’ with black market: Blair

He expects many patients will use edibles before a visit to the dentist’s because it can’t be smelled on their breath like smoke can. Edibles, while much less likely to cause cancer, are less predictable when the effect will start, and many patients don’t use the right dose, Hovan said.

READ ALSO: Feds eyeing options to expedite pardons for minor pot convictions

The other big question is how smoking marijuana may cause cancer.

“Does it put you at an increased risk for oral cancer? Yes, if you use it a lot. But certainly not edibles,” Hovan said.

If you’re diagnosed with stage 3, stage 4 oral cancer, your likelihood of being alive in five years is less than 20 per cent. If you get oral cancer instead diagnosed at stage 1 or stage 2 before it starts to be treated, there’s an 80-plus per cent chance that you’ll still be alive in five years.

READ MORE: Victoria cannabis dispensaries to hold massive sales before legalization

Early detection, Hovan said, is vital, especially since oral cancer is most commonly found at the base of the tongue near the tonsils, where it’s harder to see. Symptoms people should watch out for include canker sores or cold sores that don’t go away after more than two weeks, nosebleeds, persistent sore throat or voice change.

“It’s in your best interest about your recreational drug use as well as your smoking and drinking history,” Hovan said.


@KeiliBartlett
keili.bartlett@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

BC SPCA overwhelmed with cats, kittens needing homes

Large number of cruelty investigations, plus normal ‘kitten season’ to blame

Midway will open early at the 2019 Saanich Fair

This year the fair will pilot a “sneak peek” and the main stage will feature April Wine

Transit extends weekend night routes, ups service levels across Greater Victoria

Says bus lanes have helped improve BC Transit service frequencies

Ringette returns to Greater Victoria

Locals are forming a new ringette association after going more than decade without

Ethnic media aim to help maintain boost in voting by new Canadians

Statistics Canada says new Canadians made up about one-fifth of the voting population in 2016

POLL: Should there be a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers?

We’ve all heard them, and most likely cursed them under our breath.… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of Aug. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Wife charged in husband’s death in Sechelt

Karin Fischer has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of her husband, Max

B.C. Hydro applies for rare cut in electricity rates next year

Province wrote off $1.1 billion debt to help reverse rate increase

Retired Vancouver Island teacher ‘Set for Life’ after $675K lottery win

Patrick Shannon plans to buy new sails for his sailboat

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

Man at centre of dropped HIV-disclosure case sues province and 10 cops

Brian Carlisle of Abbotsford says Mission RCMP defamed him and were ‘negligent’ in their investigation

Most Read