According to Live Science, the study also shows there are no other links between long-term marijuana use and other health issues associated with cigarette smoking, only periodontal disease.
“What we’re seeing is that cannabis may be harmful in some respects,” said Avshalom Caspi, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and co-authoer of the study, “but possibly not in every way. We need to recognize that heavy recreational cannabis use does have some adverse consequences, but overall damage to physical health is not apparent in this study.”
Periodontal disease — which arises as a result of inflammation and infection of the gums and bone surrounding teeth — is already an issue in the U.S., as 47.2% of adults aged 30 years and older have some form of the disease.
Medical News Today reports that co-authors, Caspi, Madeline H. Meier, Ph.D., of Arizona State University and, and other researchers analyzed the data from 1,037 adults who were born in New Zealand from 1972 to 1973. These subjects were followed and studied from birth until recently when they all turned 38 years old.
The researchers looked at the frequency of marijuana use among participants and determined if the drug impacted physical health in their late thirties.
The study found that persistent marijuana use for up to 20 years was, in fact, associated with a greater risk of periodontal disease at the age of 38. Wholly 55.6% of the participants who smoked marijuana for 15 to 20 years had some form of gum disease.
“Cigarette smoking has been associated with a higher risk of gum disease,” said Dr. Ronald P. Burakoff, chairman of dental medicine at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York. “So I am not surprised that marijuana use is also associated with periodontal disease.”