Delta Dental Pushes Message That Marijuana and Anesthesia Don't Mix

Your daily habit may not mesh well with that wisdom tooth removal.
Your daily habit may not mesh well with that wisdom tooth removal. Unsplash
Have you ever considered discussing your cannabis use with your dentist? Delta Dental, the country’s largest dental plan, says you should.

According to experts with the company’s local affiliate, Delta Dental of Arizona, failing to tell doctors or anesthesiologists about marijuana use could create complications.

“We encourage people to be open and honest with their doctors, dentists, and nurses about their marijuana use, frequency, and dosage,” said Tiffany Di Giacinto, Delta Dental of Arizona spokesperson. “This allows medical professionals to better treat their patients.”

If you’re thinking about toking up right before heading out for that root canal though, the experts want you to reconsider.

A study published in the May 2019 Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that patients who use regularly may need more anesthesia, which could create additional health concerns in itself.

Delta Dental of Arizona put out a news release with the cautionary information last week through Gordon C. James Public Relations.

“With 4/20 coming up, Delta Dental of Arizona wanted to remind individuals the importance of feeling comfortable with letting their dentist know about any marijuana use,” said Abrielle Swisher of the PR company. “Say, in times like these, you have to go in for an emergency oral surgery, or have one scheduled on the books, marijuana heavily affects anesthesia. If users don’t tell doctors about their marijuana use, it can create complications including low blood pressure and poor heart function during surgery.”

Delta Dental, which has 39 independent member companies in all 50 states, also pushed the message in a Delta Dental of Arizona blog post by freelance writer Shelby Tatomir, and another in a Delta Dental of Colorado blog post by freelance writer Ryan Boulding, both of which were published on November 5. Both articles warned subtly that legalization could increase the anesthesia issue.

“The number of states where marijuana is illegal (nine) is smaller than the combined number of states that: decriminalized the plant (three); allow consumption for medical purposes (27); have legalized the darn thing (10),” Boulding wrote.

It also seems worth pointing out that the PR company representing Delta Dental of Arizona is co-owned by Lisa James, chairwoman of Arizonans for Health and Public Safety, a group that opposes the Smart and Safe Act.

Swisher said that’s a coincidence: “Although Lisa represents [Arizonans for Health and Public Safety], it is not affiliated with Delta Dental of Arizona or Gordon C. James Public Relations. In this matter, there is no agenda whatsoever ... There is zero politics, zero policy.”

Whether that’s true or not, the combination of anesthesia and cannabis does appear to be a legit concern of medical professionals, with the issue also being discussed in recent issues of the Harvard Health Blog and the online Anesthesia News.

In a recent survey by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, 35 percent of respondents disclosed that they don’t think it’s important to discuss their marijuana use with their dental and medical providers.

It’s also true that cannabis can have adverse effects on teeth and gums. Dr. Joe Dill, vice president of dental science and network strategy for Delta Dental Plans Association, told Phoenix New Times, “Marijuana has both direct and indirect effects on the teeth and gums. Smoking marijuana, just like cigarettes and vaping, is linked to oral cancer.”

Load up on all the weed gummies and pot brownies, then?

“From that perspective only, edible marijuana products are safer; however, the other side effect of marijuana use is dry mouth,” Dill continued. “So, in a dry mouth, those sugary and sticky edibles stick to the teeth and are not naturally washed away with saliva. That’s a perfect environment for tooth decay, no matter what one might be snacking on when they have the ‘munchies.’ And marijuana smokers are more likely to develop gum disease which, when left untreated, can eventually lead to tooth loss.”
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Natasha Yee is a freelance writer and yoga teacher who likes to explore the city. She considers the thesaurus her best friend.
Contact: Natasha Yee