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Published: May 10, 2017

Smoking and the toll it takes on Your Oral Health

Smoking and the Toll it takes on Your Oral Health

Tobacco products have been used for centuries and its negative effects on overall health and wellness has been well documented.  While the population of smokers has decreased, 22.9% of adults in Indiana still smoke according to the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Commission. Smoking can cause many dental issues and contribute to poor oral health. This blog will provide an overview of some of the effects smoking can have oral health.

Bad Breath:

            It should be no surprise that smoking can cause bad breath. Even once a cigarette has been finished, the particles remain causing the distinct cigarette odor. Smoking creates an overgrowth of bacteria that leads to long term bad breath. Brushing and rinsing with mouthwash may temporarily help, but as plaque builds up and cigarette use continues, the odor will quickly return.

Tooth Discoloration:

            Chemicals in cigarettes are able to cling to the enamel of teeth. Over time this will cause a yellow/browning of the teeth to occur. Whitening treatments may help with this discoloration, but if smoking continues the stain will continue to return and build up.

Reduced/Altered Saliva Flow:

            Studies have shown that overtime smoking will decrease the secretion of saliva and change its quality. The watery secretions of saliva are slowed significantly leading to an increase in mucous (“stringy”) saliva. Studies also show that chemicals in cigarette smoke destroy protective elements of the saliva causing it to lose its protective ability. This can lead to increased dental decay rates due to the inability to effectively aid in cleansing the mouth of debris and plaque.

Gum Disease:

            Smoking is one of the leading causes of gum disease (periodontitis) in the United States. Periodontitis is an infection of the gums and over time destroys the bone structure that supports and anchors the teeth in our Jaw. Plaque gets under the gums and eventually hard tartar forms under the gums creating more surface area for plaque to accumulate below the gums. Over time as our immune systems try to get rid of the plaque and bacteria from beneath our gums, they produce by-products that breakdown bone and connective tissue which leads to bone loss. Smoking also slows and weakens the body’s immune system, making it easier for periodontitis to advance.

According to the CDC, smokers are 2 times more likely to get periodontitis compared with a nonsmoker. The longer a patient has been a smoker, the higher the probability that they have periodontitis. Periodontitis usually does not present with obvious symptoms, but here are some of the warning signs:

  • Red or swollen gums
  • Tender or bleeding gums
  • Painful chewing
  • Loose Teeth
  • Sensitive Teeth
  • Gums that have pulled away from your teeth

Oral Cancer:

Oral cancer is one of the scariest threats that smoking poses. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, nearly 35,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. Nearly 80% of people who are diagnosed with oral cancer are smokers or previous smokers. Alcohol combined with tobacco use increases the risk for the development of oral cancer. Patients who have been exposed to HPV (specifically type 16) may also put patients a higher risk. Some signs and symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • Red or white patch appearing in mouth
  • Sore irritation that may be thick developing in mouth, lips, or throat
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • A feeling that something is caught in your throat
  • Numbness in tongue or other areas of your mouth
  • Swelling in jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable
  • Difficulty moving jaw or tongue

If you have any of these signs please contact your dentist of physician as soon as possible.

What to do?

If you are a smoker, the best way to prevent any of these problems is to quit smoking. The potential risks and damages to your overall and oral health are just not worth the risk. If you have any questions about how smoking is affecting your oral health please call us at 317-535-7141 for a consultation with Dr. Johnson or Dr. Long.

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We specialize in dental care for the entire family.
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