Are Your Patients Using Marijuana to Ease Their Dental Anxiety?

So, this caught our eye. Based on a nationwide survey by the ADA, 52 percent of dentists share that they have patients who show up high on marijuana or another drug.

We’re not taking a moral position here (nor, to be honest, are we clear on exactly how common of a situation this really is). But we do have questions — specifically about how the dental industry plans to adapt to the fact that marijuana use is now legal for 155 million people living in 21 states.

It seems likely that legalization will only continue to spread. This means that the number of folks who get high to deal with their anxiety around going to the dentist is also likely to increase significantly over the next decade. 

However, as dentists know, preemptively taking drugs can lead to problems during an appointment — especially if there is any anesthesia involved. Using marijuana or another drug can interfere with how an anesthetic affects the central nervous system, which can make it more difficult to keep a patient comfortable during a procedure.

Not to be ignored, either, is the fact that patients coming in under the influence are in less of a position to make levelheaded treatment decisions.

So dental needs to be prepared. Far better, of course, that a doctor knows ahead of time if a patient plans to get high to cope with their nerves. 

To facilitate this, dentists should get comfortable talking about drug use with their patients. The goal is not to judge but to open up a healthy dialogue where both parties can get honest about the realities involved — including why a patient may feel so afraid to seek care.

As in all things, clearer communication will lead to better outcomes. The more dentists can create a safe space for patients to speak truthfully, the more those patients will be able to make informed decisions — leaving dentists themselves more prepared to navigate the consequences.

What’s Got Dentists Talking?

Find out on the Dental Rift podcast — with new episodes launching weekly!
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