W. Murray Thomson of the school of dentistry at The University of Otago, New Zealand examined more than 900 frequent smokers of cannabis. Frequent smokers were considered those who smoked 40 times a year since age 18. Thomson found that heavy marijuana smoking was responsible for one-third of the new cases of periodontal disease between the ages of 26 and 32 in the group.
"Heavy cannabis use has been linked to greater risks of developing respiratory disease and some psychiatric conditions," said Terrie Moffit, a Duke University professor who participated in the study. "Gum disease should be added to that list of known hazards."
Physiological Effects Unknown
Most of the heavy marijuana users also were tobacco-users, but that factor was controlled statistically, the researchers said. Even when the researchers focused on participants who were not tobacco-users, and they still found a link between marijuana use and gum disease.
Thomson said the physiological effect of marijuana smoke on the gums is not understood, but it could interfere with immune function, inflammatory response and peripheral blood flow in the gums.
The study was published in the Feb. 6, 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
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