Long-term marijuana usage has been linked to increased risk for gum disease among adults. Notably, the study didn't reveal any worse physical health issues among long-term marijuana smokers that are often observed among life-long cigarette smokers.
The new findings suggested that long-term cannabis use can be harmful to some degree but in "every way."
"We need to recognize that heavy recreational cannabis use does have some adverse consequences, but overall damage to physical health is not apparent in this study," said study co-author Avshalom Caspi, a neuroscience and psychology professor at Duke University.
The researchers enrolled 1,037 individuals born in New Zealand in either 1972 or 1973. The team followed the participants until they reached 38 years old.
In particular, they wanted to see if a person's marijuana usage between the ages of 18 and 38 years old resulted in any physical health issues in adulthood.
Among the participants who smoked marijuana for 15 to 20 years, about 55.6 percent suffered from periodontal disease, or simply gum disease. On the other hand, 13.5 percent of non-marijuana smokers suffered from gum disease.
Findings also indicated that long-term marijuana users flossed and brushed their teeth less often than the non-marijuana smokers.
Notably, the researchers did not find a link between the poor dental hygiene among long-term marijuana smokers to the prevalence of gum disease in the group.
This suggested that the pot smoking could have cause the gum damage. Gum disease could lead to tooth loss in some cases.
"Anything you smoke heats up your gums and causes inflammation and inflammation is bad for your teeth,"said senior author Terrie Moffitt from Duke University.
Cigarette smoking has been linked to increased risk of developing gum disease. According to Dr. Ronald P. Burakoff, Northwell Health's chairman of dental medicine, he is not surprised to hear that long-term marijuana use has also been linked to periodontal disease. Burakoff is not part of the recent study.
Moffitt said that marijuana "is not a really big public health problem right now" regardless of studies linking it to mental health issues, physical ailments and lower social mobility.
This is because compared to alcohol and tobacco, fewer people are using marijuana, Moffitt added.
The new findings were published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal on June 1.
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