Half of US dentists say patients are high at dental appointments

dental patients high on marijuana
Photo: guruxox 123rf

A new American Dental Association (ADA) survey has found that more than half of dentists in the US (52 per cent) reported patients arriving for appointments high on marijuana or another drug.

“When talking through health histories, more patients tell me they use marijuana regularly because it is now legal,” ADA spokesperson Dr Tricia Quartey said. 

“Unfortunately, sometimes having marijuana in your system results in needing an additional visit.”

That’s because being high at the dentist can limit the care that can be delivered. The survey of dentists found 56 per cent reported limiting treatment to patients who were high. Because of how marijuana and anaesthesia impact the central nervous system, 46 per cent of surveyed dentists reported sometimes needing to increase anaesthesia to treat patients who needed care.

Findings were uncovered in two online surveys earlier this year—one of 557 dentists and a second nationally representative survey of 1006 consumers—conducted as part of trend research by the ADA.

“Marijuana can lead to increased anxiety, paranoia and hyperactivity, which could make the visit more stressful,” Dr Quartey said.

“It can also increase heart rate and has unwanted respiratory side effects, which increases the risk of using local anaesthetics for pain control.

“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, particularly when it comes to edible or topical forms. Still, there are strong indications that smoking marijuana is harmful to oral and overall health. 

The ADA surveyed 1006 consumers in a second poll around marijuana and vaping use. The results of the representative sample found nearly four in 10 patients reported using marijuana, with smoking the most common form of use. 

Separately, 25 per cent of respondents said they vaped, and of those respondents, 51 per cent vaped marijuana.

“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 recommends dentists discuss marijuana use while reviewing health history during dental visits.

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