The ill effects of cigarette smoking are well known and well established. Anyone who is unaware is certainly taking great risk with their overall health. Cigarette smoking (and tobacco chewing) has a direct and negative effect on oral health. In fact, smoking is likely one of the most damaging things when it comes to oral health – and it comes with serious, deleterious health risks.
Staining of the teeth
Consistent smoking is known to yellow the teeth dramatically. The discoloration derives from the nicotine and tar that is found in cigarettes. For the dentist, tobacco-stained teeth are difficult to clean and whiten, especially if the stains are deep, and if there has been prolonged exposure to the tobacco chemicals and tars. Even worse, the chemicals found in tobacco actually weaken the tooth enamel, causing the teeth to become more vulnerable, even with day-to-day routines.
Potential for rotting
Since chemicals in tobacco serve to weaken tooth enamel, teeth are more susceptible to bacteria, food acidity, and other harsh substances. Without protective enamel, teeth are more vulnerable to damaging substances, and eventually rotting can occur, sometimes into the root of the tooth. Needless to say, this can get quite painful, not to mention the potential for serious infection. Because smoking starves the body of oxygen, healing of infected areas is also compromised.
Possible gum disease
Smoking can leave the mouth defenseless to infection. Bacteria in the mouth and gums builds-up more easily and can permeate. Unattended, bacteria is responsible for destroying gum flesh, and for causing receding gums. If gum disease is allowed to progress, it can affect the jawbone and surrounding flesh in the mouth. In fact, dental studies and research shows that smokers are two times more liable to suffer from gum disease than patients who don’t smoke cigarettes.
Oral cancer potential
Tobacco products like cigarettes and pipes are carcinogenic. These products are linked to various cancer types, including oral cancer. According to the cancer foundations, there are thousands of chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which cause cancer. The worst part of oral cancer is that many patients are unaware in the early stages. In diagnosing oral cancer, dentists often identify unusual bumps, abnormal swelling, and even difficulty swallowing for some patients.
Because cigarette smoking gradually weakens the tooth enamel, the smoker’s teeth become more and more vulnerable. This is particularly true with sensitivity to hot and cold temperature - in other words, with hot and cold foods and drinks. When this condition is advanced, things can get uncomfortable, and sometimes painful. It also means that restrictions will apply when eating and drinking. While patients might be able to accommodate all of this, quitting tobacco is best.
Specialty toothpaste and mouthwash are simply superficial treatment options with tobacco. They may target bacteria, and may offer some whitening capacity, but they cannot restore enamel, or reverse any damaging effects on the teeth. Failing complete cessation, tobacco users should visit their dentist regularly, and be closely monitored. Simply put, the very best option is to stop.