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Marijuana Causes Dry Mouth: Why it Matters

As the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and in some states recreational purposes, becomes more widespread, it’s important to look into one of the most well-known side effects of its use. Dry mouth, or xerostoma in the medical and dental community, occurs for many reasons. It can be a side effect of medication, a medical condition or the result of using marijuana.

Marijuana Plays a Role in Decreasing Saliva Production 

According to Livestrong, it doesn’t matter if the marijuana is smoked or ingested, the amount of saliva the body produces is diminished by its use because of the way it affects the nervous system. Besides being annoying and uncomfortable, dry mouth can actually be a big problem for your oral health says Dr. David Buck, DDS, founder of Balance Epigenetic Orthodontics in Lynnwood, Washington.

"Saliva is one of the mouth’s most important defenses when it comes to protecting teeth from decay," he said. "It helps wash away bacteria and food particles so that it doesn’t accumulate between brushing and so the mouth can return to a state of balance after the acids found in food and drinks have been neutralized."

Dry Mouth Can Lead to the Development of Gum Disease

Tooth decay isn’t the only thing that those who experience dry mouth need to be concerned about. Gum disease most often occurs due to a build up of bacteria and plaque in the mouth. The CDC says that gum disease is present in over half of American adults. It’s also the number one cause of tooth loss, said Buck.

"When plaque accumulates on and around the teeth, it begins to form pockets in the gums around the base of the tooth," he said. "When it gets deep enough, it can affect the root of the tooth and even deep into the bones. Prevention is far easier than treatment when it comes to gum disease."

Treating Dry Mouth and Preventing Gum Disease

Whether the dry mouth is caused by medications, medical conditions or even marijuana use, treating the symptoms and preventing gum disease is paramount to preventing needless pain and expensive treatments. The first thing to do is speak to your doctor or dentist to determine the cause of the dry mouth. Many medications have alternative choices with different or less intense side effects that can be swapped out. Make sure brushing and flossing are a top priority if you experience dry mouth. The mouth is not capable of rinsing away the everyday food and drinks it’s exposed to without saliva. Rinsing the mouth with water after meals can also help mimic the function of saliva until brushing is possible. Staying hydrated by drinking lots of water is actually one way to naturally stimulate saliva production, as well. The last but not least recommendation is to chew sugar-free gum. Although this seems counter intuitive to dental health, chewing sugarless gum can actually help fight dry mouth and stimulate the production of saliva. Some studies have even shown that those who chew sugar-free gum on a regular basis have less tooth decay on average.

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