Smoking & Your Oral Health

Think before you light up! Smoking can cause tooth stains, bad breath, tooth decay and oral cancer!

Many studies have proven the ill effects of smoking on your overall health. Smoking increases your chances of having a heart attack or stroke, and is a leading cause of lung cancer. Smoking while pregnant has also been linked to premature babies and birth defects.

This probably isn't news to you. But did you know that smoking also greatly affects your teeth, gums, jawbone and mouth tissues?

There are several ways that smoking ruins your oral health:

Tooth Stains -- Smoking causes tooth stains or overall tooth discolorationTeeth whitening or veneers can reduce or remove the staining -- at the smoker's expense. You'll save money by not smoking at all.

Bad Breath -- One of the main causes of halitosis is smoking. Not only does smoking give you dry mouth, but tar and nicotine settles in your oral cavity, leading to a condition known as "smoker's breath." Gum disease, another consequence of smoking, also causes bad breath.

Tooth Decay -- Smoking increases the amount of dental plaque in your mouth, and the more dental plaque, the harder it is to remove. This eventually leads to dental tartar and tooth decay.

Gum Disease -- Tobacco interferes with the function of gum tissue cells. Gums become damaged by separating from the bone, leaving them open to infection. Smokers are several times more likely to get advanced periodontal disease than non-smokers, increasing their need for ongoing gum disease treatment

Tooth Loss -- Advanced periodontitis eventually leads to bone deterioration and tooth loss.

Oral Cancer -- If lung cancer isn't scary enough, smoking greatly increases your chances of getting oral cancer. In fact, 90% of oral cancer patients are smokers.

Unfortunately, there's no tobacco substitute for cigarette smoking. Pipes, cigars and chewing tobacco all have the same effects on your oral health as cigarettes. So no matter what your preference, any tobacco product you choose won't be better for you than the next.

It Doesn’t End There

Not only are smokers bound to have dental problems, but the more you smoke, the worse they will get. According to the Journal of Periodontology, researchers found a direct correlation between the number of cigarettes smoked and gum disease -- those who smoked less than half a pack per day were three times as likely to suffer from advanced periodontal disease, and those who smoked more than a pack and a half per day were six times at risk.

Unfortunately, smokers also tend to be more careless with their oral health. But even if you are practicing excellent oral hygiene, you won't greatly improve your chances of preventing some of the oral problems associated with smoking. Tobacco products often contain gritty materials that work like sandpaper against your teeth, and once tooth enamel is damaged, it doesn't grow back. You should also consider that if cancer-causing agents enter your system, they can't be brushed away!

You Can Do It!

The nicotine in cigarettes is highly addictive, and keeps smokers reaching for their packs. But as hard as it is, you can -- and should -- quit smoking. Abandoning the habit will significantly decrease the risk of many health problems. Nicotine gum and patches, herbal remedies, therapy and support groups are all available to help you stop smoking.

The effects of smoking make it extremely difficult to live a healthy lifestyle. So if you don't smoke, don't start. If you are a smoker and looking to quit, start by seeing a dentist to evaluate your dental health and get an oral cancer exam. Your dentist can help you decide on a plan to quit smoking, and will provide any necessary dental treatment to repair the damage that's been done. If you care about your health, you'll take the steps to improve it -- and prolong your life in the process!