Smoking and Your Oral Health
Its common knowledge that smoking is bad for your health. It can cause numerous different medical problems and life-threatening diseases, from heart disease, lung disease, and cancer to an increased risk of certain eye conditions and immune system problems. However, you might not realize that smoking also affects your oral health. This habit can have a significant negative impact on your teeth, gums, and jaws. Read on to learn more about why it’s best to avoid smoking for your oral health.
The Risk of Smoking
Smoking can lead to many serious oral health issues, including periodontal (gum) disease, tooth loss, and in more acute cases, mouth cancer.
Smoking can cause a myriad of additional dental problems, including:
- Tooth discoloration
- Inflammation of the salivary glands on the roof of your mouth
- Bad breath
- Increased loss of bone in the jaw
- Buildup of tartar and plaque on the teeth
- Higher risk of gum disease, leading to tooth loss
- Increased risks of leukoplakia, or white patches inside your mouth
- Lowered success rate of dental implant procedures
- Delayed healing after tooth extraction, oral surgery, or periodontal treatment
- Increased risk of developing oral cancer
Smoking and Gum Disease
Smoking tobacco products can affect the attachment of soft tissues and bone in your mouth and lead to gum disease. More specifically, smoking impacts the normal operation of gum tissue cells. This makes tobacco smokers more susceptible to periodontal disease. Smoking can also impair blood flow to the gums, which affects your ability to heal after simple dental procedures like tooth extractions.
Dental Problems Associated with Pipe and Cigar Smoking
Just like cigarettes, smoking pipes and cigars can lead to oral health issues. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, cigar and pipe smokers suffer tooth and jawbone loss at equivalent rates to cigarette smokers. Beyond these risks, cigar and pipe smokers are still at risk for developing oral and throat cancers, as well as other oral health issues, even if they don’t inhale the smoke. Cigar and pipe smoking can also cause bad breath, stained teeth, and heightened risks of gum disease.
Are Smokeless Tobacco Products Safer?
Just like cigarettes and cigars, smokeless tobacco products such as snuff and chewing tobacco contain chemicals that have been proven to increase the risk of oral cancers. In fact, chewing tobacco produces higher nicotine levels than cigarettes, making it more difficult to quit than cigarettes. A single can of snuff contains more nicotine than 60 cigarettes.
Additionally, smokeless tobacco can irritate your gum tissue, making it recede or pull away from your teeth. When gum tissue recedes, the roots of your teeth can be exposed, increasing the risk of tooth decay. Exposed tooth roots are also more sensitive to hot and cold drinks and foods. The added sugars used to enhance the flavor of smokeless tobacco may also increase your risk for tooth decay.
How Your Dentist Can Help
You should visit your dentist for routine exams to ensure your teeth, gums, and jaws are healthy. Your dentist will also examine your tongue, cheeks, and throat for any signs of oral health conditions that may need further investigation. If you have trouble quitting smoking, your dentist may put you in touch with a specialist or self-help group that can provide support and information to help you quit.