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Tobacco and Your Teeth

Smoking is very common. In fact it is one of the most prevalent addictions in the world. Smoking leads to many dental problems.

These include,

A-Discoloration of teeth

B-Halitosis/ bad breath-This is caused by the smoke particles which are left in the throat and the lungs. The smell of a freshly smoked cigarette can linger for hours in the lung and that stale scent contributes to what is called, smoker’s breath. Also it has been found that tobacco smoke contains over 60 hydrocarbons which cause bad breath.

C-It causes gum disease as

1- There is an increase in the build up of plaque and tartar on the surface of the teeth
2- It affects the attachment of soft tissue i.e. gums and bone to the teeth
3- It interferes with the normal health and functioning of gum cells.
4- Smoking causes reduced blood flow to the gums

As a result of the above, the gums are prone to infection and the wound healing takes very long as the blood flow is reduced to the region. Even after tooth extractions or any surgical procedures in the mouth, the wound healing takes really long , if one is a smoker. This is because smoking causes vasoconstriction i.e. narrowing of the blood vessels; thus enough blood does not reach the surface of the wound. The blood is needed as the protein called fibrin in blood helps to form the net to hold the clot. The oxygen and nutrients are carried by blood to heal the wound. The white blood cells in the blood help to fight the infection and heal the wound quick. If a person is a smoker all the above advantages of a good blood supply to the wound are not achieved.

D- Smoking causes increased tooth loss- This is primarily due to the gum disease it causes. Just like the building has a foundation, gums and bone are the supporting structures for the teeth. When they become weak and diseased, as explained above the teeth become mobile and fall off.

E- Smoking increases the risk of leukoplakia in the mouth. Leukoplakia is a condition where thick white patches are found on the inner surface of the cheeks and sometimes on the tongue. It is a reaction of the mucous membranes to chronic irritation. The commonest factor for this irritation is smoking.

F- Smoking increases the risk of oral cancer; About 60 hydrocarbons are found in the tobacco smoke. A lot of them are carcinogenic/cancer causing. By exposing the mouth to these cancer causing chemicals, either during inhalation while smoking or through direct contact while chewing tobacco products, the risk for cancer is increased. When tobacco and alcohol are combined, the risk of oral cancer increases 15 times.

G- Smoking also reduces the immunity of the cells by depressing antibodies and cells that are in the body to protect against foreign invaders. Thus the mouth is more prone to bacterial infections.

H- Smoking causes a reduced success of implant procedures – This is primarily due to the narrowing of blood vessels which reduces the blood supply to the site of surgery thus decreasing the success rate.

Pipe and Cigar smokers also have dental problems. They experience tooth loss and jaw bone loss at the same rates as smokers. So their risk of having periodontal problems is same as smokers. Plus they are at a risk of oral and throat cancers.

Smokeless tobacco products viz… snuff and chewing tobacco, contain at least 28 chemicals that
have been shown to increase the risk of oral, throat and esophageal cancer. In fact, chewing tobacco contains higher levels of nicotine than cigarettes. Thus its harder to quit chewing tobacco as compared to smoking.

Sugars, which are often added to enhance the flavor of smokeless tobacco, can increase your risk for tooth decay. Smokeless tobacco also typically contains sand and grit, which can wear down your teeth.

How Can One Quit Tobacco?

Dental clinics in India and especially reputed dental clinics in Delhi, e.g. “Smile Delhi-The Dental Clinic”, are making special efforts to help patients quit these habits.

Both dentists in India and dentists in Delhi are spending time to educate and counsel their patients about the ill effects of smoking/ chewing tobacco, not just on the oral cavity/ mouth but the rest of the body as well.

Dental Clinics in India and Delhi are motivating their patients to quit their habit by

a- doing scalings and bleaching/ whitening of their teeth and motivating them to quit with the results they obtain through these procedures i.e. healthy bright white teeth. In Smile Delhi, a reputed dental clinic in south Delhi, known for its cosmetic dentistry, there have been patients who after seeing their bright healthy teeth post bleaching and cleaning ,have given up their habits of smoking.
b- Both dentists in India and dentists in Delhi are prescribing medications like nicotine gums and patches to their patients to help them quit.
c- There are some dental clinics in India and a few dental clinics in Delhi, where cessation classes and support group sessions are conducted post practice hours to help patients quit.
d- Some dental clinics in India and few dental clinics in Delhi are using Herbal remedies, as well as hypnosis and acupuncture, to help patients kick the habit.

Posted By – Dr. Suprriya B. Bhatia