How Smoking Affects Your Teeth and Oral Health
Do you or a loved one smoke cigarettes? If you’re looking for one more reason to quit, consider that tobacco use in any form raises your risk for oral health problems. Here are the issues associated with smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes or using smokeless tobacco:
- Gum disease: Also called periodontal disease, gum disease is an infection that causes red, swollen, tender, and bleeding gums. Smoking increases your risk of gum disease by weakening your immune system, which makes your body less capable of fighting off infection. In fact, smokers are twice as likely as nonsmokers to contract gum disease. The greater your tobacco use, the higher your risk.
- Tooth loss: As gum disease progresses, it eventually affects the underlying bone structure that anchors your teeth to your jaw. If the bone and tissue that hold your teeth in place break down, your teeth may loosen and need to be extracted.
- Plaque and tartar buildup: The chemicals in tobacco products decrease saliva flow, making it easier for bacteria to cling to your teeth and gums. If not removed daily with diligent brushing and flossing, plaque hardens into tartar, a cavity-causing, tooth-staining substance that can only be removed with professional cleaning.
- Cancer: Besides lung cancer, smoking can also cause cancer of the lips, mouth, throat, tonsils, and esophagus. The risk is six times higher among smokers. In fact, 90 percent of patients diagnosed with these oral cancers are tobacco users.
- Delayed healing: The reduced immune function caused by smoking impairs blood flow to the gums, making it harder for your mouth to heal following a tooth extraction, periodontal treatment, or oral surgery.
- Tooth discoloration: Stained, yellow teeth are a hallmark of smoking. Whitening products can sometimes counteract the effects temporarily, but the stains quickly return.
- Bad breath: Smoking leaves a stale film on your teeth and gums, resulting in “smoker’s breath.” You may be able to mask the odor with a mint for a short time, but the smell will return before long.
- Inflammation: Smoking triggers an immune response that increases the level of inflammatory markers in the bloodstream. This may increase inflammation throughout the body, including at the salivary gland openings and on the roof of your mouth.
- Darkened gums: Smoker’s melanosis, or a darkening of the gum tissue, is one response to irritating tobacco smoke. Up to 22 percent of cigarette and pipe smokers develop this oral change. There is no treatment, but the gums typically return to normal within six to 36 months of quitting.
Clearly, if you want to improve your oral health, kicking the tobacco habit is a great place to start. Your dentist can recommend useful products to help you quit, such as nicotine gum and patches. You can also pursue treatments to reverse the damage caused by smoking. For more useful tips, or to schedule an appointment with our NYC dentist, please contact Park 56 Dental online or call us at (212) 826-2322.