Half of Dentists Say Patients Show Up High

Nov. 8, 2022 – Four in 10 dental patients report using marijuana, and their dentists are noticing. Half of dentists say patients have shown up to appointments high on marijuana or another drug. 

That’s according to survey results released this month by the American Dental Association. For some patients, that means delaying getting that cavity filled until they are sober. 

“When talking through health histories, more patients tell me they use marijuana regularly because it is now legal,” Dental Association spokesperson Tricia Quartey, DMD, said in a news release. “Unfortunately, sometimes having marijuana in your system results in needing an additional visit.”

Five states are considering ballot measures that would legalize marijuana, which could bring the total number of states with legal recreational marijuana to 24, plus Washington, DC. Medical marijuana is legal in 37 states and Washington, DC.

The surveys were done earlier this year and tallied responses from 557 dentists and 1,006 consumers. 

Among dentists, 56% said they limited treatment to patients who were high and 46% said they had to increase anesthesia during visits due to how drug use impacts patients’ central nervous systems.

“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,” Quartey explained. “Plus, the best treatment options are always ones a dentist and patient decide on together. A clear head is essential for that.”

Previous studies have linked marijuana to more cavities, gum disease, and mouth and neck cancers, the ADA said. 

“The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, makes you hungry, and people don’t always make healthy food choices under its influence,” Quartey said. “Medically speaking, munchies are real.”


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