Smoking and Dental Health
Everyone knows smoking is bad for our health and can have a great number of adverse effects on the health of the smoker. It causes chronic lung problems such as lung cancer and can cause coughing fits and may also worsen asthma symptoms.
There’s another side effect of smoking that doesn’t get as much attention due to the nature by which the action of smoking is performed. Its effect on your dental health would be one of the areas most negatively affected by the act and contributor to many dental problems. All forms of tobacco, including cigars, smokeless tobacco (snuff) and hookah water pipes, pose dental health concerns.
How Does Tobacco Damage Teeth?
Smoking and tobacco doesn’t just damage your teeth, it can even destroy them. Tobacco hurts your teeth and gums in many ways and can cause many serious problems for teeth and oral structures that range from cosmetic to downright painful. Using tobacco in any form, including cigarettes and chewing tobacco limit and weaken your body’s and mouth’s ability to fight off infection, as you short-circuit your body’s defense mechanism which leaves you defenseless against the bacteria produced by smoking. Your teeth grip the cigarettes you smoke and come in direct contact with the dangerous toxins you inhale when you take a drag. Your body will have a hard time protecting itself. When your mouth can’t fight back, suddenly there is increase in the plaque and tartar buildup in your mouth that targets the tissue that makes up the gums, bone and other supported structures of a tooth as the bacteria festers and decreases the flow of saliva (saliva washes away harmful bacteria). The problems can be further exacerbated when proper health care is not followed.
When these structures are negatively compromised, leads to lot of dental problems ranging from:
- It can be a major cause of cancers of the mouth and throat. It greatly increases the risk for oral cancer, a disease that progresses rapidly and can be deadly if not diagnosed and treated early. You can also raise the chance of leukoplakia, or white patches inside the mouth (a lesion in the mouth which can develop into cancer). Mouth cancer is, unfortunately, a significant killer today due to the fact that it is diagnosed very late.
- Increases the risk of gum disease causing weakening of teeth to losing them, which is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults. It’s thought that the bacterial load to the mouth causes an imbalance in oral bacteria that causes gum disease to progress over time.
- Causes yellowing/discoloration of teeth and also stains the teeth that can’t be removed with regular brushing due to which teeth of a smoker are less attractive in appearance. Smoking is one of the most common causes of teeth discoloration.
- Smoking can cause the salivary glands to become inflamed and contribute to deterioration of bone structure.
- Smoking in particular can slow down healing in general in the mouth. It certainly postpones healing after oral surgery procedures, such as having a tooth extracted.
- Damage gum tissue and cause receding gums, leaving the roots of the teeth exposed. This could increase the risk of tooth decay and cause hot/cold sensitivity due to the exposure of sensitive nerve endings that are covered by the gumline.
- Causes bad breath, due to a number of factors associated with smoke itself but also bacterial imbalance in the mouth.
- Cause a build up of tartar, which could require you to get more frequent dental cleanings or otherwise may further increase your risk of gum disease.
- Increased risk of tooth decay and tooth loss.
- Smokers may also lose the sensation of taste and smell.
- In some smokers, the tongue can develop a condition known as black hairy tongue, due to a growth that may grow as a result of tobacco use. The condition causes the tongue to become yellow, green, black, or brown, and give the appearance of being hairy.
- Smoker’s melanosis (brown spots on the gums).
- Smoker’s palate (the roof of the mouth becomes thickened and pale or white).
- Smokers are at a greater risk of developing dry socket from tooth extraction procedures. When dry socket occurs, the patient experiences severe pain in the affected area due to the bone and nerve endings being exposed.
- Also if you smoke, dental implants have less chance of being successful.
The problem develops when bacteria in the mouth build up in the gum, or soft tissue surrounding the teeth. The gums become inflamed, and soon gum disease develops. Smokers produce more bacterial plaque in their mouths, in part because the nicotine in cigarettes causes a reduction in the amount of oxygen delivered to the soft tissue in the mouth turning it into a breeding ground for bacteria. At the same time, the blood flow in your mouth decreases sharply when you smoke as nicotine also constricts blood vessels, which can impact the length of time it takes to diagnose gum disease and when smokers develop an infection of the gums, it’s less likely to bleed. For this reason, smokers’ diagnosis of gum disease can be delayed, and the disease may worsen in the meantime.
Smokers are four times more likely to have poor dental health than people who have never smoked. In some dental clinics in Delhi, counselors are called for giving advise to patients on ways to quit smoking.
Do Cigar and Pipe Smoking Cause Dental Problems?
It’s not only cigarettes, pipes and cigars also lead to dental health problems. They contain several toxins associated with cancer. Cigar smokers experience tooth loss and bone loss (bone loss within the jawbone that anchors teeth) at rates equivalent to those of cigarette smokers. Pipe smokers also have a similar risk of tooth loss as cigarette smokers. Unfortunately, the water in the pipes does not filter out all of the harmful toxins and it is unknown how these things react in the mouth. Beyond these risks, pipe and cigar smokers are still at risk for mouth and throat cancers. Even not inhaling does not decrease your risk for dental problems and other oral consequences like bad breath, stained teeth, and increased risk of gum disease occurs.
Are Smokeless Tobacco (chewing tobacco) Safe?
Like cigars and cigarettes, chewing tobacco can also harm to your mouth. Smokeless tobacco products (for example, snuff and chewing tobacco) contain at least 28 harmful chemicals that have been shown to increase the risk of mouth cancer and cancer of the throat and esophagus. In fact, chewing tobacco contains higher levels of nicotine in dip and chew than cigarettes, making it harder to quit than cigarettes. And one can of snuff deliver more nicotine than over 60 cigarettes.
Smokeless tobacco can irritate your gum tissue, causing it to recede or pull away from your teeth. Once the gum tissue recedes, your teeth roots become exposed, creating an increased risk of tooth decay. Exposed roots are also more sensitive to hot and cold or other irritants, making eating and drinking uncomfortable.
In addition, sugars, which are often added to enhance the flavour of smokeless tobacco, can increase your risk for tooth decay because when you hold the tobacco in your mouth for long periods, you are exposing your teeth to damaging sugar that can cause tooth decay. Chewing tobacco users were four times more likely than non-users to develop tooth decay.
Smokeless tobacco also typically contains sand and grit, which can also rub teeth and wear down the protective coating of your tooth enamel. Beyond all the other problems nicotine can spark. Dental clinics in India observe a ‘no tobacco day’ to bring about awareness in people about this terrible habit so many people are addicted to. Dentists in India are educating their patients and this is motivating patients to quit this habit.
How Does Smoking or Tobacco Lead to Gum Disease?
Tobacco use in any form like cigarettes, pipes, and smokeless (spit) tobacco raises your risk for gum disease.
Smoking has many effects on the mouth that can lead to the weakening of gums and development of gum disease. Smoking and other tobacco products affects the attachment of bone and soft tissue of your teeth. More specifically, smoking interferes with the normal function of gum tissue cells. This interference makes it harder to fight off a gum infection and make smokers more susceptible to infections, such as gum disease and also seems to impair blood flow to the gums which also lengthen the time it takes to heal.
Also bone loss may happen in the jaw and it can take longer for you to recover from oral surgery. This is especially problematic, because you’re more likely to need oral surgery for the problems smoking causes. Smokers or tobacco users have twice the risk for gum disease compared with a non-smoker. Due to the excess of harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke, smokers are twice more likely to suffer tooth loss than non-smokers. The more cigarettes you smoke and the longer you smoke, the greater your risk for gum disease. Treatments for gum disease may not work as well for people who smoke.
Dentist in Delhi are taking care to counsel patients on the adverse effects smoking will have on the teeth and gums along with the whole body.
Tips to Improve Your Dental Health
Regardless of how long you have used tobacco products, quitting now can greatly reduce serious risks to your health. While quitting smoking or tobacco use entirely is the best most effective solution to ensure better oral long term health benefits including dental health. We know that’s not easy. Many people have tried and failed to quit smoking as it’s a difficult habit to end. Reducing the amount you smoke will also help. Given all of the risks and complications of smoking on dental health it is very important that smokers do not skip regular check-ups with their dentists and take extra care of his/her mouth and teeth. There are ways that those who choose to smoke should follow and can help to keep the damages of smoking from doing further harm through proper oral care.
During these visits, dentists can watch for signs of developing gum disease and oral cancers. Everyone should visit their dentist twice a year, but those who smoke should consider more frequent visits just to make sure you are doing everything to keep your mouth healthy.
By staying on top of regular dentist visits, smokers can also benefit from professional cleaning’s. Having a proper oral hygiene plan is extremely important for smokers. Smokers should be brushing, flossing, and using a tongue cleaner and mouthwash(make sure you swish for at least 60 seconds to kill as many bacteria as possible) on a regular basis, at least twice daily as these are all vital for smokers. These oral hygiene habits can quickly go out of the window when you are tired or if you’ve had a long day, and you are dying to crawl into bed.
Having the right toothbrush can be something that is often overlooked, but it is something that should not be neglected. Smokers should use a toothbrush that is more targeted for the general trouble areas discussed above. Toothbrush bristles should be able to tackle the hard stains left by tar in the tobacco and should be able to avoid plaque build-up on your teeth. The toothbrush should also be able to reach the difficult areas in the back of the gums. Smokers should also buy toothpaste that is made specifically for smokers, as they are chemically stronger and better able to tackle harder to clean bacteria. Mouthwash helps combat the bad breath many smokers experience. There are also mouthwashes that are targeted just for smokers.
Smoking isn’t the only thing that is harmful to teeth. Some foods can also cause staining and erosion. Smokers should try to avoid foods that can cause further staining, compounding on the damages already done by the use of tobacco. Coffee and soda are common drinks that can stain the teeth. Smokers should also avoid eating foods that are highly acidic in composition as they can cause enamel breakdown and cavities.
Your dentist or doctor may also be able to help you calm nicotine cravings with medications, such as nicotine gum and patches. Smoking cessation classes and support groups are often used in tandem with drug therapy.
Smokers should also perform oral health self-checkups on a regular basis. Smokers should check for long lasting sores around the face, mouth, and neck. If the sores persist after two weeks, it is a sign of a more serious problem. People who smoke should also check for recurrent bleeding in the mouth, lesions, swelling, and lumps. Have your tongue and gums checked closely at your dental appointments. White, red, or dark patches on the inside of the mouth, under the tongue, and on the cheeks that last more than two weeks should be brought to the attention of a dentist. Lumps on the lips and gums can also indicate a more serious problem, as should numbness or pain in any part of the mouth. The quicker you act after detecting something, the greater the chance of catching a serious problem early.
Some other sobering reasons to quit smoking-
- About 90% of people with cancer of the mouth, lips, tongue, and throat use tobacco, and the risk of developing these cancers increases with the amount smoked or chewed and the duration of the habit. Smokers are six times more likely than non-smokers to develop these cancers.
- About 37% of patients who persist in smoking after apparent cure of their cancer will develop second cancers of the mouth, lips, tongue, and throat, compared with only 6% of those who stop smoking.
- Provided cancer is not already present, stopping smoking halves the risk of mouth and throat cancer within five years, and the risk continues to decline over time. People who smoke and are heavy drinkers have very high risks for mouth and throat cancer.
- Stopping smoking reduces the risk of developing gum disease and slows down the progress of existing disease.
- Smoking affects the immune system, making smokers more likely to develop bacterial infection. Also, smoking impairs healing of gum and bone. Stopping smoking improves wound healing within one to eight weeks.
Stopping smoking improves these conditions and helps their treatment.
In our dental clinic in Delhi ie ‘Smile Delhi –The Dental Clinic’, 5 patients have got so motivated after their teeth whitening /bleaching procedure that they have quit smoking.
Posted By – Dr. Shriya