You must have heard the warning that smoking is bad for your health. But did you know that the effects of smoking on your teeth could also be very severe? We are not just talking about bad breath. There is a multitude of problems tobacco products can cause when it comes to your oral health. Those include: lessened sense of taste and smell, stained teeth, stained tongue, and slower than usual healing after a tooth extraction or other surgery. Cosmetic dental issues become more difficult to treat due to the nature of stains or bacteria left from smoking.
Gum disease, more plaque and bacteria from smoking
Let’s look at gum disease or what dentists call periodontal disease. Did you know that effects of smoking on your teeth include producing more plaque? Plaque is described as a soft and sticky film that collects on your teeth, which contains millions of bacteria. The bacteria in plaque if left untreated, may lead to tooth decay and gum disease. The best way to get rid of plaque is to ensure through brushing and flossing.
Why does smoking increase your chance of developing more plaque?
When you smoke there is less oxygen getting in your bloodstream. Therefore any infected gums won’t have a chance to get the needed oxygen for them to heal properly. Smoking can also worsen gum disease. Untreated gum disease can lead to tooth loss. Did you know that gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults?
Smokers can be at risk for mouth, lung or throat cancer
One of the most severe effects of smoking on your teeth is developing cancer. Smokers not only increase their chance of developing lung or throat cancer but also mouth cancer. Mouth cancer can affect your lips, tongue, cheeks and throat. Whether you have your own teeth or not you can still develop mouth cancer. Mouth cancer is more prevalent in people over 40. Even though it has typically affected more men, recently there has been an increase in younger patients and women.
Statistics show that each year there are more than 640,000 people diagnosed with mouth cancer worldwide. In Canada alone almost 4,000 (http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/oral/statistics/?region=on ) are being diagnosed every year. In countries such as India, where tobacco chewing is more common mouth cancer is on the rise. Mouth cancer ranks as the 11th most common cancer worldwide.
More about the negative effects of smoking on your teeth
Most everyone understands that smoking is bad. We know about the various medical issues that are related, but not so much about the damage that smoking does to our gums and teeth. As a smoker, you probably don’t fully understand the effects of smoking on your teeth. And those effects are quite profound - from tooth staining, to gum disease, to tooth loss, to mouth cancer.
Why are my teeth getting stained?
One of the effects of smoking on your teeth is the noticeable staining. Whether it’s cigarette smoking, chewing tobacco, or even smokeless tobacco, the staining occurs because of the nicotine and tar content in tobacco. Smoking can stain your teeth yellow in a short amount of time, while heavy smoking can turn the teeth brown after only a few short years. Beyond staining, there are also greater health risks after many years of smoking, and these can affect the mouth and gums.
Any special dental products I can use?
If you’re concerned about the effects of smoking on your teeth, there are special toothpastes available that may be helpful. They are more abrasive in nature, and should therefore be used with care. There are also various “whitening” toothpastes and applications now available on the market. While these “whitening” products are not designed to address tooth and gum health, they may well be effective in removing stains, an in improving the overall appearance of your teeth.
How often should I visit the dentist?
For smokers, regular dental check-ups are imperative, and a full mouth exam should be included in order to diagnose any potential problems. Any issues with the teeth and gums (and especially with gum recession) require early detection, simply to avoid problems from developing. As a smoker, you may even want to visit the dental hygienist even more frequently. This would allow for teeth cleaning on regular basis, and more in-depth cleaning when teeth are seriously stained.
Do smokers need special treatment?
As a smoker, the effects of smoking on your teeth may have several repercussions. As such, the dentist will likely carry out a more in-depth oral exam – one that assesses the mouth, teeth, and gums specific to tobacco damage. At the same time, the dentist will also check the cheeks, tongue, and even the throat for any irregularities. More importantly, the dentist will probably reinforce the notion of smoking cessation, which realistically would be the best option for the long term.
Taking steps to fully stop smoking
When you finally decide that the effects of smoking on your teeth are too risky, then it’s time to quit smoking. Your dentist can actually be quite influential – and along with the dental hygienist, a step-by-step plan can be easily implemented. The fact is, everyone wants healthy teeth and healthy gums, and with a concerted effort, smoking can quickly become a habit of the past.
- Get yourself ready to quit smoking by setting a firm “quit date”.
- Seek ongoing support and backing from your friends and family.
- Make sure your dentist and doctor are on board with the plan.
- Practice “behavior distractions” when the smoking urge arises.
- If necessary, use medications to assist (prescription and OTC).
- Be ready for some setbacks and seek some help with relapses.
Protect your mouth from smoking’s harmful effects
Your best line of defense to protect yourself against these oral health issues is to quit smoking. There are also special products we recommend to lessen the effects of smoking on your teeth. These include more abrasive toothpaste or special mouthwashes that should be used with care. Dr. Pedvis and his dental team can recommend a suitable product that can help you clean your teeth properly. People who smoke are more likely to have stained teeth and develop dental problems. Therefore you may need more frequent dental appointments than other people. Dr. Pedvis can examine your teeth and recommend a proper hygiene regimen for your circumstances. It is important that you visit your dentist regularly not only for a normal check-ups but for a full mouth examination. This way we can spot any problem areas and minimize the effects of smoking on your teeth.