By Dr. Richard Wolfert, DMD

The Toothboss,

Since its legalization back in 2016, there’s been much discussion on how marijuana can provide health benefits for certain people, including seniors. For those who have incorporated smoking marijuana into their healthcare or self-care routine, there is one area you may want to consider: the impact on oral health. In that arena, dentists have strong concerns about marijuana use, legal or otherwise.

Using marijuana—whether smoked or ingested—reduces the amount of saliva produced in the mouth due to its effects on the nervous system. With frequent use, this effect can result in an uncomfortable condition called dry mouth, or xerostomia.

Saliva is a very important part of preventing tooth decay. It’s why most dentists nowadays will recommend chewing sugarless gum because it helps you produce more saliva. Without sufficient saliva to wash away food and bacteria from the teeth and gums, xerostomia can cause bad breath and mouth sores. Additionally, a dry mouth promotes tooth decay and possible tooth loss if the decay is not treated promptly.

Marijuana users may be at risk for gum disease—also known as periodontal disease. Gum disease occurs when oral bacteria are allowed to flourish in the mouth, causing inflammation of the gum tissue and bone that surrounds the teeth. Without treatment, gum disease can lead to tooth loss. Having a dry mouth due to smoking marijuana also contributes to the development of periodontal disease.

Mind you, these conditions are not exclusive to marijuana use. Excessive tobacco and alcohol use can also lead to dry mouth and the aforementioned conditions. As a dental professional, I’m not for any behavior that puts your oral health at risk. If you do engage in those activities, it’s important to know what it can do your teeth and act accordingly.

In addition to brushing and flossing at least twice per day, I recommend chewing sugarless gum and eating foods that induce saliva—e.g., celery, citrus foods and fruits. If you’re unsure about what foods to eat, drinking water also will help produce more saliva. And, of course, regular checkups with your dentist.

Most dentists will screen for oral cancers and gum disease, particularly for senior patients. Here at the Toothboss, it’s been a standard part of our exams for quite some time. That doesn’t mean we support marijuana use or condemn those who do. But if you do, practice moderation so you don’t cause damage that can’t be undone.

Dr. Richard Wolfert, DMD is the owner of The Toothboss, 1121 Main Street, South Weymouth, MA. For more information, call 781-335-0604 or visit