52% Of American Dentists Have Seen Patients Who Are High. Are Yours?

52% Of American Dentists Have Seen Patients Who Are High. Are Yours?

Two online surveys conducted earlier this year by the American Dental Association – the ADA - one of 557 dentists and a second nationally representative survey of 1,006 consumers - have revealed that more than half of dentists (52%) reported patients arriving for appointments high on marijuana or another drug.

As personal and medical marijuana use increases nationwide, the ADA suggests patients refrain from using marijuana before dental visits.

Recreational marijuana use is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia, with five more states voting on ballot measures on November 8th.  Medicinal use is legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia.

“When talking through health histories, more patients tell me they use marijuana regularly because it is now legal,” says ADA spokesperson Dr. Tricia Quartey, a dentist in New York. “Unfortunately, sometimes having marijuana in your system results in needing an additional visit.” 

Being high at a dental visit can limit the care that can be delivered. The survey of dentists found 56% reported limiting treatment to patients who were high. Because of how marijuana and anaesthesia impact the central nervous system, 46% of surveyed dentists reported sometimes needing to increase anaesthesia to treat patients who needed care.

“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 anaesthetics 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.”

Studies have also shown regular marijuana users are more likely to have significantly more cavities than non-users. 

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

The science behind oral health and marijuana is beginning to emerge, and there are strong indications that smoking marijuana is harmful to oral and overall health.

“Smoking marijuana is associated with gum disease and dry mouth, which can lead to many oral health issues,” Dr. Quartey said. “It also puts smokers at an increased risk of mouth and neck cancers.” 

The ADA has called for additional research around marijuana and oral health and will continue to monitor the science to provide clinical recommendations for dentists and patients. 

Survey results also revealed that 67% of patients say they are comfortable talking to their dentist about marijuana. The ADA recommends dentists discuss marijuana use while reviewing health history during dental visits.

In the UK, Cannabis was redesignated a ‘Class B’ drug and it remains illegal to grow and distribute. But its use is widespread across all social groups and ages.  It’s the most commonly used illegal drug, with 7.2% of 16 to 59 year olds in 2017 reporting to having used it in the previous twelve months according to a report on Wikipedia.

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