Should you pucker up after you’ve smoked pot?
Recreational use of marijuana has been legalized in eight states, including California, and the District of Columbia, but anyone inclined to include it in their Valentine’s Day plans as a way to relax and have fun may find that — legal or otherwise — marijuana is not the best bet for a romantic evening that ends in a kiss.
“Marijuana can cause dry mouth and dry mouth can lead to bad breath,” said Dr. Harold Katz, a dentist and bacteriologist.
“That’s because, when there isn’t enough saliva in the mouth, the bacteria that cause bad breath can thrive.”
And that could quickly kill any bubbling passion at your Valentine’s Day rendezvous.
Marijuana as a bad-breath culprit may not be a subject that most people have been exposed to in any mainstream way, especially since the legalization of recreational use is a fairly recent phenomenon limited to a few states.
“Ten years ago it wouldn’t have seemed likely that we would ever be discussing the bad-breath implications of legally available marijuana, yet here we are,” Katz says.
At one time there was an assumption that smoking marijuana naturally dried the mouth out due to heat and smoke, but the blame actually lies with the chemical compounds at work, Katz says. Research by the University of Buenos Aires has linked the saliva reduction to THC, the ingredient that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties.
“That means there is a great chance of dry mouth even when the method of cannabis consumption doesn’t involve smoking,” Katz says. “Edibles, vaporizing and other methods also act as THC delivery systems.”Katz is no killjoy, though, so he offers tips to those who suffer from dry mouth to help them avoid bad breath that could seriously dampen the romantic mood:
• Drink more water. Katz suggests at least six to eight glasses a day, which comes to about 48 to 64 ounces assuming an 8-ounce glass.
• Avoid alcohol. This advice isn’t limited to just alcoholic beverages, although it’s important to avoid them, too. But some mouthwashes are as much as 27 percent alcohol, Katz said. Like marijuana, alcohol is a cause of dry mouth.
• Avoid spicy, acidic and sugary foods. Without saliva there to offer some protection to the lining of the mouth, spicy and acidic foods can be irritating. In addition, saliva helps to break down the sugar in foods. If the saliva isn’t there to properly do that job, then there’s an increase in the risk of such dental problems as tooth decay.
“Marijuana isn’t the only cause of mouth dryness – not by far – but it is one of the less-discussed,” Katz said. “The legalization of cannabis products has brought a new reason to pay attention to dry-mouth symptoms. From alcohol to sugars, items that block the natural production of saliva are fairly common.”