It’s no secret that smoking is detrimental to your body, but its impact on your oral health is exceptionally alarming. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, smoking one pack of cigarettes a day can cost you the loss of at least two teeth every 10 years. This means smoking can waste all the hard work and money you’ve put into keeping your teeth healthy. If you’re a smoker, we encourage you to learn exactly how smoking affects teeth, and take steps to break the habit today.
How Smoking Affects Teeth
Your mouth can reveal a lot about your habits. In fact, dentists can often identify smokers by spotting several tell-tale signs. Smoking can stain your teeth yellow, cause bad breath, and diminish your sense of taste. In addition, the habit can lower your mouth’s ability to fight off tooth decay. The moment you light a cigarette, you are exposing your body to more than 7,000 chemicals, so it’s no wonder that smoking is a risk factor for two major oral diseases – gum disease and oral cancer.
Smokers have a much higher risk of developing gum (periodontal) disease, an infection that causes gum recession and loss of oral bone structure. Smoking hinders your immune system and makes it harder to fight off a gum infection. In addition, gum recession makes it hard for your dentist to complete successful restorative work.
Gum disease begins with gingivitis, a condition where plaque forms under your gums. Gingivitis can develop into gum disease, causing your gums to pull away from your teeth and form spaces that get infected (source). As the disease progresses, it can affect the bone structure that supports your teeth, which is a major reason why smokers experience higher rates of tooth loss. Some early warning signs of gum disease include red, tender, bleeding, or swollen gums, as well as loose teeth and pain when chewing. Contact your dentist if you have developed symptoms of gum disease.
Oral cancer shows up in the form of a sore on the lips, tongue, cheeks, the floor of the mouth, hard or soft palate, sinuses, or throat. This type of cancer can spread quickly throughout your body due to the large amounts of blood vessels and lymph nodes in your head and neck, and it is often difficult to detect early.
The single greatest risk factor for oral cancer is tobacco (source). Not only can smoking cause oral cancer, but it can also make it harder for your body to fight off the cancer cells. The chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage or change a cell’s DNA, which controls a cell’s normal growth and function. When DNA is damaged, cells can grow out of control and create a cancereous tumor.
How to Quit
Now that you’ve learned how smoking affects teeth, are you ready to break the habit? Start by setting a quit date, and ask your friends, family, doctor, and dentist for support and accountability. You can even ask your dentist or doctor to help counsel you and give you tips on quitting. In some cases, your doctor might prescribe a nicotine replacement product to help with withdrawals. Breaking the habit won’t be easy, and you might have setbacks along the way. Luckily, it is never too late to quit smoking.
Finally, if you do smoke, be honest with your dentist and oral hygienist. Their job is not to judge you, but to keep your mouth in good shape and help you make informed decisions about your health.
Are you looking for an experienced dentist in southwest Missouri? Visit Duff Family Dental. We offer a full line of general, cosmetic, pediatric, and restorative dentistry services. Make an appointment by calling us at 417-501-8601 or contact us online today!