By Dr. Michael Herndon, DDS, AF

         These are the lyrics in a song that my friend Merle Haggard sang with Willie Nelson in a rather funny video. Having grown up in the ‘60s, been a professional musician, and spent a lot of time with Merle, I know what marijuana is all about. And I just returned from a trip to British Columbia where cannabis is legal in the country of Canada. Interestingly, I only smelled the smoke on the streets twice during my weeklong stay.

There are good and bad parts to the concept of legalization of cannabis. Over the centuries, mind-altering drugs have been utilized to open the door to creativity in the arts… pretty much all of them: music, writing, visual arts, etc. and this has led to some very good results (Edward Allen Poe, the Beatles, and the list goes on and on). Medical research into cannabis needs to continue and of course, hemp is a plant that has many good uses. 

     Then along comes the “not-so-good” parts of cannabis use, of which there are a number of issues such as a recent study showing that there is significant cognitive ability reduction in young people, which can be reversed if cannabis use is stopped. But there is another issue that is important to understand: Cannabis use and its effect on periodontal disease (gum disease). 

     Recent studies have shown that there is an increase in periodontal disease in young people (the mean age in this study of 425 people was 18) in the magnitude of 26.6%. Further, in a group of 900 people between the ages of 26-32 that used cannabis since the age of 18 was found to be responsible for more than one-third of new cases of periodontal disease. Indeed, in vivo (in living animals) studies have shown an increase in bone loss with cannabis use in regard to periodontal tissues. The specific mechanism is unknown at this time. 

     This is only the “tip of the iceberg” and more studies need to be done. However, be advised that if you or friends are cannabis users, please make sure you visit your dentist regularly so you can keep your “ivory”… your teeth!