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How Does Smoking Affect Your Oral Health?

How Does Smoking Affect Your Oral Health?

If you’re a smoker, you’ve heard all the warnings before. You know that smoking is linked to many health problems, like COPD and cancer, but did you know it’s actually very detrimental to your oral health too? Smoking can lead to severe mouth problems – from teeth discoloration and bad breath to loose teeth, tooth loss, and even mouth cancer.

Staining, Bad Breath, and Black Hairy Tongue

Stained teeth are one of the first and most noticeable signs of smoking in the mouth. The tar and nicotine in tobacco can make your teeth look yellow at first and in some cases a darker brown for longtime smokers. Smoking can also cause bad breath. Apart from the more immediate impacts after cigarette smoking, resulting dry mouth effects lead to halitosis(bad breath). Black hairy tongue, as the name suggests, gives your tongue a black, hairy appearance. It is caused by a build-up of dead skin cells and is exacerbated by tobacco use. 

Gum Disease, Tooth Loss, and Cancer

Gum disease begins when bacteria infects and inflames the gums (gingivitis) and leads to infected bone and supporting tooth structure (periodontitis), beginning with tartar and plaque build-up that harbors this bacteria. Smokers are seven times more likely to develop gum disease than nonsmokers. This is because smoking reduces blood flow, oxygenation, and overall immune response. As a result, your gums are significantly more vulnerable to these harmful bacterias, can’t fight them off as well, and can’t heal as quickly as a nonsmoker. 

As the disease progresses, your gums can pull away from your teeth and become more infected. As the bone erodes away, your teeth will get loose, possibly requiring extraction, or they can fall out by themselves!  Also while smoking is often linked with lung and throat cancer, it’s also the leading cause of mouth cancer and has been linked to heart disease. 

What You Can Do

Obviously, the best way to prevent these issues is to quit smoking. But, we understand that is easier said than done. Here are some other practical steps you can take to help combat the damage smoking can cause:

  1. Brush and floss. We recommend brushing your teeth at least twice a day, floss, and/or use a water flosser daily. Don’t forget to brush your tongue! The use of electric toothbrushes and waterpiks are encouraged. Use a combination of different techniques to achieve the desired results.
  2. Do not skip regular checkups. Most studies show you should go to the dentist for a professional cleaning, routine x-rays (as needed), and decay, periodontal, and cancer exams at least every 6 months. You may want to ask your dentist about a more stringent cleaning schedule to help fight against damage caused by tobacco and other underlying tobacco-related issues. We recommend any patients who are at higher risk for gum disease, tooth decay to possibly be seen more frequently to monitor their dental health more closely.
  3. Toothpaste. Use a Flouride toothpaste formulated to remove more plaque and prevent excess tartar buildup. A prescription-strength toothpaste may be recommended.
  4. Mouthwash. Consider using a mouthwash with fluoride to keep your breath fresh and teeth healthy. Some can also help reduce harmful bacteria levels in the mouth.
  5. Be Aware. Check your teeth for signs of declining oral health. If you notice white spots on your gums, your teeth are more sensitive than normal, your teeth are loose, or your gums are bright red or swollen, and prone to bleeding-contact your dentist. These can be signs of serious dental and possibly medical problems that need to be addressed.

Smoking will have negative effects on your teeth, gums, and mouth in general and it’s important to be aware of these issues to help combat them. If you have questions or concerns about your oral health, contact Carolina Family Dentistry today. Don’t wait until it hurts! We are here to help you.

Smoking and Your Oral Health

Do you smoke? If so, you already know that it’s not good for you. Smoking can lead to lung disease, cancer, heart attacks, and a host of other issues. What you might not know is that smoking also wreaks havoc on your oral health. Check out this list of ways smoking impacts your dental health, in case you need more of an incentive to quit.

Smoking Can Cause Staining and Halitosis

On a purely aesthetic level, smoking can cause staining of your teeth. No longer will they be pearly white after you’ve smoked awhile. The tar and the other chemicals will stain your teeth yellowish, brownish, or grayish. You can brush with a whitening toothpaste, but that will go only so far.

Many people who smoke know that smoking also gives them bad breath, also called halitosis. If you smoke and your partner does not, this can be a sticking point in your relationship. Chewing gum and brushing and flossing regularly help somewhat, but you can’t completely hide the smell.

Smoking Can Cause Gum Disease

Inflamed, red, bleeding gums can occur when someone smokes. One reason is that smoking dries out oral tissues, and dried out gums are more susceptible to tiny cuts and cracks that can lead to bacterial infections. As the bacteria and plaque sit in the pockets between your gums and your teeth, they are ready to infiltrate any little cuts, causing the bleeding, sore gums that are the hallmark of gingivitis and periodontitis (both forms of gum disease).

Smoking Can Cause Tooth Loss

As gum disease progresses, the teeth can become loose, eventually falling out. Also, tooth decay tends to be more prevalent in smokers, so broken or decayed teeth may need to be extracted. Smokers are also more prone to dry sockets and other complications following extractions and other types of oral surgery.

Smoking Can Cause Oral Cancer

Finally, in severe cases, both smoking and chewing tobacco can cause oral cancer. If you notice a lesion, sore, or patch in your mouth that doesn’t clear up within two weeks, make an appointment with your dentist right away to be evaluated for oral cancer. This is particularly important if you smoke.

Talk to your doctor about ways that you can quit smoking. You will be adding years onto your life and you might be able to avoid some of the dangers to your oral health and your overall health.