JAN 08, 2023 8:00 AM PST

Reefer Before Root Canals? 52% of Dentists Report Patients Coming to Dental Appointments High

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Charron

A recent survey by the American Dental Association (ADA) found that about 52% of dentists reported increased rates of patients arriving to appointments high from using cannabis or another drug. Unfortunately for some, the ADA recommends that patients avoid cannabis use before dental visits because it can cause complications during dental procedures. The findings are based on an analysis of two online surveys conducted earlier this year. The first survey included 557 dentists, and the second 1,006 patients.

Dental professionals are concerned about increased rates of cannabis use prior to dental treatments as more states legalize cannabis use as cannabis can impact dental wellness and treatment delivery. For example, dentists must take into consideration how cannabinoids and anesthesia impact the central nervous system. According to the first survey, 56% of dentists reported limiting treatment to patients who were moderately to heavily intoxicated. 46% of surveyed dentists reported sometimes needing to increase anesthesia to treat patients who needed care due to their use of recreational drugs like marijuana.

In addition to physical effects, dentists look for undesirable mental effects such as anxiety. ADA spokesperson Dr. Tricia Quartey explained that “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 anesthetics for pain control.” Sharing critical information about regular cannabis use and oral health with a dentist is critical for effective dental treatment planning. 

The second survey focused on cannabis and vaping use. The survey found that nearly 4 in 10 (39%) patients reported using cannabis. 25% of respondents said they vaped, and 51% of those respondents vaped cannabis distillate. The second survey also highlighted a positive finding. 67% of patients feel comfortable talking to their dentist about cannabis use. 

The ADA has called for additional research on cannabis and oral health to examine the potential dangers of gum disease and mouth and neck cancers. Dentists advise their patients who use cannabis to brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, eat healthy, and maintain regular dentist visits. 

Sources: American Dental Association, Eureka News Alert

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kerry Charron writes about medical cannabis research. She has experience working in a Florida cultivation center and has participated in advocacy efforts for medical cannabis.
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