Pubdate: Thu, 07 Feb 2008
Source: Daily Tar Heel, The (U of NC, Edu)
Copyright: 2008 DTH Publishing Corp
Author: Laura Marcinek
Referenced: The study 'Cannabis Smoking and Periodontal Disease Among 
Young Adults'
Bookmark: (Marijuana)


Young people who are heavy smokers of cannabis, a substance found in 
marijuana, could be at a significant risk for gum disease, according 
to a study released Tuesday.

The study found that participants who used cannabis between the ages 
of 18 and 32 were more likely to have mild and severe periodontal 
disease than those who never used the substance.

"What we found out is that marijuana does pose a risk above smoking 
cigarettes," said James Beck, professor of dental ecology at the UNC 
School of Dentistry, who helped author the study.

Periodontal disease is the loss of gum support around the tooth 
caused by microorganisms in plaque under the teeth and gums. Some 
people have the genetic ability to fight the disease more effectively 
than others. If untreated, the disease can sometimes lead to tooth loss.

The two major risk factors for gum disease are diabetes and using 
tobacco products.

But typically, people younger than 30 aren't as prone to gum disease.

"The rule of thumb is you don't start talking about periodontal 
disease until after the age of 35," Beck said.

Natalie Turner, a junior journalism major, was not surprised by the 
study's findings. But she said she does not believe the data will 
change people's habits.

"I don't think people think about gum disease until they actually 
have it," Turner said.

Eric Smith, a health educator with Campus Health Services' substance 
abuse prevention program, said marijuana use can affect a student's 
memory retention and problem-solving abilities.

"It's not just the impact on your health, but also it's the effects 
on your life as a student," Smith said. "From the academic 
perspective, the effect marijuana can have on your brain is huge."

The study started more than 30 years ago when Dr. W. Murray Thomson, 
professor of dental public health at the University of Otago in New 
Zealand, began following participants born between 1972 and 1973.

The participants reported on their cannabis and tobacco use four 
times between the ages of 18 and 32 and were examined for signs of 
dental disease at ages 26 and 32.

"They're pretty trustful of these investigators, and they would 
probably get a valid response," Beck said. "It's one of the few 
studies that would have information like that."

Addiction varies by person and depends on frequency of use.

"Long-term marijuana abuse can lead to addictions," Smith said.

In 2000, the rate of marijuana usage among college students was 33.6 
percent, a 9 percent increase from 1990.

Students interested in quitting should consider meeting with health 
professionals at Counseling and Wellness Services, Smith said.

"Much like smoking, cold turkey might not be the best way to go," he 
said. "Between the health and legal reasons, that should be good 
motivation to quit." 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake