Shocking Revelation: Half of Dentists Say Patients Are High at Dental Appointments

Woman Smiling Dentist Appointment

A recent survey conducted by the American Dental Association (ADA) has found that over half of dentists (52%) have treated patients who arrived at their appointments under the influence of marijuana or another drug. As personal and medical marijuana use becomes more prevalent across the country, the ADA advises patients to abstain from using marijuana before visiting the dentist.

Marijuana use may affect oral health and treatment.

As personal and medical marijuana use increases nationwide, the American Dental Association (ADA) suggests patients refrain from using marijuana before dental visits after a new survey finds more than half of dentists (52%) reported patients arriving for appointments high on marijuana or another drug.

Currently, recreational marijuana use is legal in 21 states as well as the District of Columbia and Guam. Medicinal use is legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia.

“When talking through health histories, more patients tell me they use marijuana regularly because it is now legal,” says ADA spokesperson Dr. Tricia Quartey, a dentist in New York. “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% reported limiting treatment to patients who were high. Because of how marijuana and anesthesia impact the central nervous system, 46% of surveyed dentists reported sometimes needing to increase anesthesia 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 1,006 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. It can also increase heart rate and has unwanted respiratory side effects, which increases the risk of using local anesthetics for pain control,” Dr. Quartey said. “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. “Medically speaking, munchies are real.”

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 1,006 consumers in a second poll around marijuana and vaping use. The results of the representative sample found nearly 4 in 10 (39%) patients reported using marijuana, with smoking the most common form of use. Separately, 25% of respondents said they vaped, and of those respondents, 51% 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 has called for additional research around marijuana and oral health and will continue to monitor the science to provide clinical recommendations for dentists and patients.

In the meantime, survey results show 67% of patients say they are comfortable talking to their dentist about marijuana. The ADA recommends dentists discuss marijuana use while reviewing health history during dental visits.

“If we ask, it’s because we’re here to keep you in the best health we can,” Dr. Quartey says. “If you use it medicinally, we can work with your prescribing physician as part of your personal healthcare team.”

In the meantime, patients who use marijuana can stay on top of their oral health with a strong daily hygiene routine of brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, cleaning between teeth daily and visiting the dentist regularly and making healthy snack choices.   

3 Comments on "Shocking Revelation: Half of Dentists Say Patients Are High at Dental Appointments"

  1. Not so surprising if more than half of dentists say it’s common. Patients or readers are aware of what they’re doing. “The ADA recommends dentists discuss marijuana”, while I do not, unless you enjoy prison with a Schedule 1 Drug abuse record (yes, it’s still Schedule 1 in America).

    Excellent article, stands to reason, but it takes a hard position based on the ADA’s bias; what’s better, going to a dentist after using marijuana, with potentially higher likelihood of a cavity and drymouth and resisting anesthesia, or simply not going to any dentist? Dentistry can “lead to increased anxiety, paranoia, and hyperactivity”, and marijuana calms that, so do you want the patient not? The same risks apply to obesity, and that’s half of patients now. Marijuana, candy, alcohol, salt, how many of your life choices should the ADA concern itself with?

  2. Good article but I don’t agree with the anxiety and some of the other things stated in the article.
    I wish that the publication would use the scientific word “Cannabis” and not the racially derogatory term “Marijuana”.

  3. What a misleading article. Half of dentists isnt half of patients. And THC is a wonderful natural sedative. Theres no reason you shouldnt take a reasonable dose before going in for a stressful dental visit. Lamestream media strikes again.

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