If you have ever looked on a package of cigarettes you’ve probably noticed the warning on the side: “Quitting smoking now greatly reduces serious risks to your health.” This is not put on the package just for the heck of it. Smoking, as we all know (or at least should know), can have extremely harmful effects to your health. When people think of smoking or tobacco chewing related disease, they usually go straight to lung cancer. But smoking will also wreak havoc on your oral health.
Here is a look at the malicious things tobacco use does to your mouth:
- Tooth discoloration. Nobody loves the yellow stained look that comes with heavy smoking
- Bad breath. “Smoker’s breath” is a very real thing and it’s quite unpleasant
- Increased risk of developing leukoplakia, which are white patches inside the mouth
- Increased risk of developing periodontal disease or gum disease, which is the leading cause of tooth loss
- Increased loss of jawbone due to tooth loss and decay
- Salivary gland openings on the roof of the mouth become inflamed
- Longer and more complicated healing process from tooth extraction, oral surgery, and periodontal treatment
- Lower success rate of dental implant procedures
- Higher risk of developing oral cancer
Now that we’ve laid out the potential oral health complications and disease that tobacco use can cause, let’s take a closer look at how smoking can lead to these:
How Smoking Can Lead to Gum Disease
Tobacco interferes with the function of gum tissue cells, which makes smokers more vulnerable to periodontal disease, infection, and it also impedes blood flow to the gums, which can have a major effect on the healing of wounds. These are problems that occur because gum disease affects the attachment of bone and soft tissue to your teeth.
Is Smokeless Tobacco Use Safer?
Nope. Snuff and chewing tobacco actually contain 28 chemicals that have been linked to oral cancer of the throat and esophagus. In fact, it has been proven that chewing tobacco is harder to quite because it has much higher levels of nicotine than cigarettes.
When chewing tobacco is placed inside the mouth it irritates your gum tissue and causes it to recede and pull away from your teeth. This, in turn, causes your tooth’s root to become exposed, which increases the risk of tooth decay. When a tooth’s root is exposed it becomes extremely sensitive to hot and cold. A popsicle or a cup of coffee can quickly become your worst enemy. The shooting pain that comes along with exposed roots is not unpleasant at best.
Chewing tobacco can also contain sugars in order to boost the flavor. And as we all know, sugar can be a tooth’s worst enemy. Bacteria contained in plaque feeds on sugar, which creates acids that destroy your enamel. And once your enamel is gone you can never get it back. This leaves your teeth vulnerable to tooth decay, staining, and permanent discoloration.
Kick the Habit
The only sure way to avoid the harm that smoking has on your oral health is to quit once and for all. Studies have shown that someone who has been smoke free for eleven years is just as likely to have gum disease as someone who never smoked in their life (this is a good thing). The American Cancer society can give you even more reason to quit, which include heart attack, stroke, cancer of the lips and tongue, pregnancy complications, and worst of all, death.
If you are currently a tobacco user, or a former smoker, regular dental visits should be a big part of life in order to keep your oral health in check. Make an appointment with our office today. A healthy mouth is a happy mouth, and we are here to help.