As medical and recreational marijuana use become more common, medical professionals are learning more about the different ways cannabis users respond to anesthesia, heal post-surgery or react to certain medications. Because of this, it’s important to tell your dentist or doctor if you use marijuana.
You probably noticed some changes around the ability to buy and use marijuana in the U.S. As of January 2021:
In November 2010, Proposition 203 passed with 50.13% of the vote, making it legal to use medical marijuana in Arizona. Then, in November 2020, Proposition 207 passed to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. Under Proposition 207, adults 21 and older can possess, use and cultivate a limited amount of marijuana.
With an increase in the availability of legal marijuana comes a potential increase in use. This can have a big impact when visiting the dentist or having surgery.
For dental surgery, or any surgery requiring anesthesia, it’s critical that you feel comfortable talking about any marijuana use with your doctors.
When marijuana users don’t tell their doctors about their marijuana use, it can create complications for the anesthesiologist and the surgeon. Side effects for those who use marijuana and go under anesthesia can include low blood pressure and poor heart function during surgery. Patients who regularly use marijuana may need more anesthesia, which creates additional health concerns for the patient. (It’s also important to note that these are good reasons not to use marijuana right before surgery, even if you feel like it would calm your nerves.)
Ultimately, more information is needed to determine the overall health and medical effects of marijuana use. The trouble is that research in this area is hard to come by. The federal government considers the marijuana plant a Schedule 1 drug and research on it is highly restricted.
Because of this limitation, doctors and dentists are left to monitor the effects marijuana has on anesthesia, lung health and tolerance to pain medications in their own practices. And when there is a gap in what professionals understand, there’s an even larger gap in what the public knows.
A recent survey conducted by the American Society of Anesthesiologists found that there is a lack of understanding around the use of marijuana. For example, 40% of people think that cannabidiol (CBD) products are approved by the Food and Drug Administration when, in fact, only one prescription-exclusive solution actually is.
Another revealing statistic from the survey is that 35% of respondents don’t think it’s important to discuss their marijuana use with their medical and dental providers. More and more anecdotal evidence is proving them wrong.
In reality, you’ll receive better care if your doctor knows you use cannabis. Your doctor needs a complete picture of who you are and what your habits are to provide the best treatment. Be open and honest with doctors, dentists and nurses about marijuana use, including the dosage and frequency.
Shelby Tatomir was a Delta Dental associate and frequent contributor to the blog.
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