Most people know smoking tobacco can cause health problems and fatal diseases, like lung cancer. However, many individuals do not pay enough attention to the fact that smoking also causes oral health problems.
Though it is always a good idea to schedule regular dental visits regardless of whether you smoke, frequent dental visits are crucial for smokers because they are at greater risk of developing oral health diseases.
If you reside in Western New York, you should look into dental visits with Concierge Dental’s expert team. In this article, we discuss the effects of tobacco on oral health, illustrate how smokers are at greater risk of common oral problems, and provide information for smokers hoping to make a change.
The Effects of Smoking on Oral Health
In addition to an increased risk of developing oral cancer, smoking and tobacco use can affect oral health in the following ways:
- Bad-smelling breath.
- Discolored teeth.
- Inflammation on the roof of your mouth.
- Increased accumulation of plaque.
- Increased jaw bone loss.
- Heightened threat of leukoplakia (white patches within the mouth).
- Higher likelihood of gum disease (which can cause tooth loss).
- Slower healing following oral procedures (like tooth extraction, periodontal treatment, or oral surgery).
- Lower likelihood of success in dental implant procedures.
How Does Smoking Cause Bad Breath and Stained Teeth?
Here, we discuss two of the most common oral health problems caused by smoking.
- Bad Breath: Bad breath is commonplace among smokers and is due to the chemicals found in tobacco. These chemicals stick to your teeth and gums and attract bacteria to the mouth. Bad breath occurs when chemicals and bacteria have built up. Another way smoking causes bad breath is through saliva. Saliva helps keep your mouth clean. So, by making your mouth dry, smoking prevents you from producing a smell-cleansing substance.
- Stained Teeth: discolored teeth are also common among smokers. These yellowish stains can be brought on quickly and are caused by the nicotine and tar found in tobacco. Heavy smokers may see their teeth turn from yellow to brown.
How Does Smoking Affect Periodontal Health and Cause Gum Disease?
Periodontal health refers to the health of the gums, tissues, and bones surrounding and supporting the teeth. Thus, gum (periodontal) disease is caused by the absence of a healthy teeth-support system, and smoking is a leading cause of periodontal disease in the US.
Periodontal disease begins when bacteria on your teeth sink under your gums. When the bacteria remain on your teeth for a while, layers of plaque accumulate, which causes gingivitis (early gum disease).
If left untreated, gum disease worsens; your gums may retract from your teeth, leaving open spaces that can quickly grow infected. This is when severe gum disease (periodontitis) occurs. The support system that keeps your teeth in place breaks down, causing your teeth to loosen and could necessitate tooth removal.
Does Smokeless Tobacco Also Affect Oral Health?
If you’re wondering whether smokeless tobacco (snuff and chewing tobacco) is a safe alternative to cigarettes, the answer is no. Like cigars and cigarettes, smokeless tobacco contains chemicals that increase the risk of oral cancer and gum disease. Furthermore, studies have shown that chewing tobacco is harder to quit than cigarettes because it contains higher levels of nicotine. Smokeless tobacco can directly damage gum tissue, causing gums to recede and exposing the roots of your teeth. This leaves smokeless tobacco users at a greater risk of tooth decay.
Good Oral Health Practices for Smokers
Though quitting is the best route to mitigating your risk of tobacco-related oral diseases, there are also a few other routes to promoting oral health.
Use Specialized Dental Products
There is a limit to what specialized dental products can do for a smoker’s oral health, several special toothpastes are designed for smokers. However, you should consult your dental team to find a product right for you, especially since these kinds of toothpaste are often more abrasive than ordinary ones. There are also toothpastes designed for whitening, which may help improve the appearance of your teeth.
Follow a Consistent Oral Care Routine
While this point might seem intuitive to some, consistently following the best practices for oral care can help mitigate the risk of gum disease, bad breath, and stained teeth. Brush, floss, and use mouthwash twice a day.
Though this is the best advice for smokers who want to keep their teeth clean and disease-free, it’s also the most challenging to follow. While we all know that tobacco leads to numerous fatal diseases (like cancer), people usually don’t plan on growing addicted when they start smoking. If you’re a relatively new smoker, it’s best to try quitting sooner rather than later. The longer one is hooked, the more their oral health suffers and the harder it is to stop smoking.
But you don’t need to go cold turkey to start seeing results. Studies have shown that smokers who reduce their daily intake are at decreased risk of developing gum disease.
There are several routes and tools to assist you in your journey to quitting:
- You can opt for over-the-counter medications like nicotine patches and gum.
- You can consult with your doctor to obtain prescription medication like Zyban.
- You can try focus groups for support.
- You can try acupuncture.
If you’re looking for a checkup or a second opinion in Western New York, you should visit the experts at one of Concierge Dental’s four locations.
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