Smoking Effect on Oral Health
Jan 5, 2018
It is quite known how smoking can destroy your lungs. In fact, smoking can be extremely detrimental for your overall health as well. The blood vessels harden due to smoke products causing heart diseases and high blood pressure. Your oral health is also compromised due to smoking.
Tobacco use poses a significant risk to your teeth, gums, and overall oral well-being. From stained teeth and persistent bad breath to gum disease and even oral cancer, the consequences of smoking on oral health are alarming.
Link between Smoking and Oral Health
Smoking is a major risk factor for various oral diseases. The harmful chemicals present in tobacco smoke not only enter your lungs but also affect the delicate tissues in your mouth. The link between smoking and oral diseases has been extensively studied and documented by dental professionals.
One of the most common oral health problems associated with smoking is periodontal disease, also known as gum disease.
Gum disease is an infection of the gums and bone that support your teeth. Smoking weakens the body’s immune response, making it harder to fight off infections, including those that affect the gums. The harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke irritate the gum tissue, causing inflammation and reducing blood flow. This impaired blood flow prevents the gums from receiving essential nutrients and oxygen, leading to a higher risk of gum disease. Smoking also weakens the connective tissues that hold teeth in place, further exacerbating the problem.
Another oral disease linked to smoking is oral thrush. This fungal infection is caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the mouth.
Smoking weakens the immune system, making it easier for the yeast to multiply and cause an infection. Oral thrush is characterised by white patches on the tongue, inner cheeks, and roof of the mouth. It can be uncomfortable and lead to difficulty swallowing or a burning sensation in the mouth. Smokers are more susceptible to oral thrush compared to non-smokers.
Common Oral Health problems caused by Smoking
Smoking has a range of detrimental effects on oral health, leading to several common problems. One of the most noticeable effects of smoking on the mouth is tooth discoloration. The tar and nicotine present in tobacco smoke stain the teeth, resulting in a yellowish or brownish appearance. The longer a person smokes, the more pronounced the discoloration becomes. Regular brushing and dental cleanings can help reduce the staining, but quitting smoking is the most effective way to prevent further discoloration and improve the appearance of your teeth.
Smoking can also cause persistent bad breath. The chemicals in tobacco smoke linger in the mouth, throat, and lungs, contributing to unpleasant breath odor. Moreover, smoking reduces saliva production, leading to a dry mouth. Saliva plays a crucial role in neutralising acids and washing away food particles, so a dry mouth creates an environment conducive to bacterial growth and bad breath. Smokers often struggle with chronic halitosis, which can be embarrassing and socially isolated.
Delayed Healing is another effect of smoking. Any wound within the mouth of a smoker takes a lot of time to heal and there are chances for the wound to get infected as well.
Risk of Gum Disease
As mentioned, smoking significantly increases the risk of gum disease. The harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke damage the gum tissue and weaken the immune response, making it easier for bacteria to thrive. Smoking also reduces blood flow to the gums, preventing them from receiving the necessary nutrients and oxygen to stay healthy. These combined effects create an ideal environment for gum disease to develop and progress.
Gum disease has varying stages, ranging from mild gingivitis to severe periodontitis. Gingivitis is characterized by red, swollen gums that may bleed easily, especially during brushing or flossing. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a more advanced form of gum disease.
Periodontitis causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets where bacteria can accumulate. This can lead to bone loss, tooth mobility, and eventually tooth loss. Smokers are two to three times more likely to develop gum disease compared to non-smokers, and the severity of the disease is often more pronounced in smokers.
Smoking and Oral Cancer
When discussing the effects of smoking on oral health, it is crucial to address the heightened risk of oral cancer associated with tobacco use. Smoking is a leading cause of oral cancer, accounting for a significant proportion of cases worldwide. Oral cancer refers to cancers that develop in the mouth, including the lips, tongue, cheeks, and throat.
The chemicals in tobacco smoke are known carcinogens, meaning they have the potential to cause cancer. When inhaled or consumed, these chemicals come into contact with the delicate tissues of the mouth and throat, increasing the risk of malignant cell growth.
The most common type of oral cancer associated with smoking is squamous cell carcinoma, which often presents as a persistent sore or ulcer in the mouth that does not heal. Other symptoms of oral cancer may include difficulty swallowing, persistent hoarseness, a lump in the neck, and unexplained weight loss. Smokers are six times more likely to develop oral cancer compared to non-smokers, highlighting the urgency of quitting smoking to reduce this risk.
Effects of smoking on orthodontic patients
If you are a smoker and wear braces, you have some serious reason to be worried. Look at how smoking can affect oral health in orthodontic patients:
- For Invisalign
These are almost invisible aligners that are worn by individuals to correct minor orthodontic problems. Smoking can stain these aligners and thereby compromise the oral hygiene of an individual.
- For Conventional braces
In this case, the teeth surfaces which do not have wires or brackets on them get stained. Hence, when the orthodontic patient removes the braces at the end of the treatment, the teeth have already got stained irregularly and, at times, even permanently. An additional problem with conventional braces is that removal of stains is quite tough through professional cleaning as the wire components act as a hindrance during the procedure.
For successful orthodontic treatment, the gums and the underlying bone need to be healthy. Smoking can risk the health of gums and the underlying bone. This can lead to delays in treatment or altered results. This is something quite undesirable. Hence, it is better to quit smoking once and for all.
Improving Oral Health - Tips to quit smoking
Quitting smoking is undoubtedly a challenging endeavor, but the benefits for your oral health are well worth the effort. Here are some tips to help you kick the habit and improve your oral health:
- Set a quit date
Choose a specific date to stop smoking and mark it on your calendar. Having a target date can give you a sense of focus and motivation
- Seek support
Inform your friends, family, and healthcare provider about your decision to quit smoking. Their encouragement and support can make the journey easier.
- Find alternative coping mechanisms
Smoking often serves to deal with stress or emotional triggers. Explore healthier alternatives such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies to distract yourself and manage cravings.
- Consider nicotine replacement therapy
Nicotine replacement products, such as patches, gum, or inhalers, can help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Consult your healthcare provider to determine the most suitable option for you.
- Join a support group
Connecting with others who are also trying to quit smoking can provide a sense of community and accountability. Support groups or online forums can offer valuable tips, encouragement, and resources.
Remember, quitting smoking is not only beneficial for your oral health but also for your overall well being. Take it one day at a time and celebrate each milestone along the way. Your oral cavity will thank you for it.
Professional Treatment for effects of Smoking
If you have been a smoker, it’s important to address any existing oral health issues to prevent further damage. Dental professionals offer a range of treatments to improve the oral health of smokers, including:
- Deep cleaning
A professional dental cleaning, also known as scaling and root planning, can remove hardened plaque and tartar from below the gumline. This procedure helps eliminate bacteria and promotes gum healing.
- Gum surgery
In severe cases of gum disease, surgical intervention may be necessary to remove infected tissue and restore gum health. Gum surgery can help reduce pocket depths and prevent further bone loss.
- Tooth whitening
Professional teeth whitening treatments can effectively lighten the stains caused by smoking. Dentists use various techniques, including bleaching agents and laser treatments, to restore the natural whiteness of your teeth.
- Oral cancer screenings
Regular oral cancer screenings are essential, especially for smokers. Dentists can perform a thorough examination of the oral tissues, looking for any signs of abnormal cell growth or suspicious lesions.
Consult with your dental professional to determine the most appropriate treatment options for your specific oral health needs. Remember, early intervention is key to preventing further damage and improving your overall oral health.
Preventive measures after quitting
Quitting smoking is a journey that requires determination and perseverance. It’s important to take preventive measures to protect your oral health while quitting. Here are some tips to consider:
- Practice good oral hygiene
Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. This will help remove plaque, reduce the risk of gum disease, and maintain fresh breath.
- Use a mouthwash
Rinse your mouth with an alcohol-free mouthwash to help kill bacteria and freshen your breath. Look for mouthwash that contains fluoride to strengthen your teeth.
- Stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water helps combat dry mouth, which is a common side effect of quitting smoking. Dry mouth can increase the risk of tooth decay and bad breath, so staying hydrated is crucial.
- Avoid tobacco substitutes
While some individuals may turn to smokeless tobacco or e-cigarettes to quit smoking, these alternatives still pose risks to oral health. Avoid using any form of tobacco to protect your overall well-being.
- Schedule regular dental check-ups
Regular dental visits are important for monitoring your oral health and addressing any concerns that may arise. Your dentist can provide guidance and support throughout the quitting process.
By implementing these preventive measures, you can protect your oral health while on the journey to becoming smoke-free. Remember, every positive step you take is a step toward a healthier mouth and body.
Importance of quitting smoking for oral health
Smoking not only poses a significant risk to your lungs but also wreaks havoc on your oral health. The harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke contribute to a range of oral health problems, including gum disease, tooth discoloration, bad breath, and an increased risk of oral cancer.
Quitting smoking is essential for improving your oral well-being and reducing the risk of further damage. By quitting, you can protect your teeth, gums, and overall health