In honor of National Dental Hygiene Month in October, let’s talk about an issue that affects the oral health of nearly 40 million adults and 4.7 million middle and high school students in the United States: smoking and tobacco use. Smoking or using other products with tobacco in them is one of the most damaging habits for your oral health.
In addition to traditional cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, pipes, and e-cigarettes also contain tobacco and other toxic chemicals that could damage your mouth, teeth, and gums.
Keep reading to learn ten harmful effects tobacco use can have on your oral health, and ask yourself – how many of these did you know?
- Smoking dulls your taste buds and sense of smell, which can impact your appetite and enjoyment of your favorite foods. Smoking also leaves you with a nasty case of halitosis (bad breath) that lingers long after you finish a cigarette.
- The tar in tobacco products stains your teeth and tongue yellow with consistent exposure. Over time, this yellowing can darken into a brown hue – brown, discolored teeth are commonly seen in people who have been smoking for many years or decades.
- Smoking compromises the body’s immune system and decreases its ability to fight off bacteria, viruses, and disease. People who smoke have a higher risk of developing infections – including oral infections.
- Smoking increases your risk for developing gum disease, and it causes gum disease to progress more quickly and heal more slowly. Smoking weakens the immune system, increases inflammation and decreases the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream – all of which inhibit the gums from fighting off infection.
- Smoking and using tobacco products increases your risk for tooth decay because it causes more plaque and tartar build up on the teeth. Smoking also releases harmful toxins and bacteria that your mouth cannot fight off because the immune system has been compromised.
- Smoking and using tobacco products can lead to bone loss and tooth loss.
- Oral wounds will heal more slowly if you smoke or use tobacco products. Smoking constricts blood flow and inhibits the growth of new blood vessels in your mouth. It also weakens your immune response, which is a vital component of wound healing.
- Dental implants and bridges may not be an effective repair option to replace missing or decayed teeth, because the surrounding teeth, tissues, and jawbone may be too weak to support the hardware. Smoking and use of tobacco products causes bone, tooth, and tissue loss.
- Smokeless tobacco products are not safer than cigarettes, even though there’s no smoke. They contain more nicotine, which makes them harder to quit. And products you chew or hold in your mouth – like chewing tobacco or snus – irritate gum tissue and cause gum recession. These products also contain sugars, sand, and grit – sugars lead to tooth decay, while the sand and grit are abrasives that erode teeth over time.
- Smoking increases your risk for oral cancer – including cancer of the mouth, tongue, gums, lip, cheek, and throat – because cigarettes contain hundreds of harmful chemicals and at least sixty-nine known carcinogens. Additionally, using smokeless tobacco products like chewing tobacco increases your risk for cancers of the esophagus and pancreas, because you may swallow some of the product. Tobacco products, like cigarettes, contain several known carcinogens.
If you smoke or use other tobacco products, your risk for adverse oral affects is measurable by exponential growth. That is, the more you smoke and use tobacco, and the longer you use it, the greater your risk is of damaging your mouth, teeth, and gums.
If you do smoke or use other tobacco products, regular dental checkups are critical to ensure that your teeth and gums are healthy. Contact Boyett Family Dentistry today to schedule your next appointment.