Not only does smoking increase your risk of heart attacks, respiratory diseases and pregnancy complications, it’s also the main cause for almost a third of all cancers and a whopping 90% of lung cancers.
Tobacco use is one of the biggest risk factors for periodontal disease (gum disease), and responsible for anywhere between 80% and 90% of oral cancers, in addition to a wide range of other oral health issues. Yes, smoking is bad for your teeth and gums. Let’s understand how it affects your oral health and why you should kick the butt if you haven’t already!
Top 10 Dental Problems Caused By Smoking
Here are some of the main oral health issues that are directly or indirectly caused by tobacco use:
- Heavy staining and discoloration of your teeth
- Increased plaque and tartar buildup on your teeth
- Bad breath (smell of cigarette smoke and associated effects on oral hygiene)
- Inflamed salivary glands (the openings on the roof of your mouth)
- Leukoplakia (white patches inside the cheek, on the tongue or on the floor of your mouth)
- Bone loss in the supporting structure of teeth and the jaw
- Higher risk of gum disease (gingivitis or periodontitis) and associated tooth loss
- Slower healing after oral surgery, tooth extraction and periodontal treatment
- Reduced success rates for dental implant procedures
- Significantly higher risk of oral cancers
Smokeless tobacco products aren’t all that safe either. In one study, almost 98% of patients who quit using these products, leukoplakia healed completely within as little as 6 weeks!
What is the Link between Smoking and Gum Disease?
Tobacco use irritates your bone and soft tissue, causing them to recede from the base of your teeth. This exposes the root, leading to higher sensitivity and potential decay. Smokers face 5 times the risk of severe bone loss as compared to non-smokers as well.
Smoking also causes interference in the normal functioning of gum tissue cells and blood flow to your gums, raising the risk of infection and slowing down the healing process after periodontal treatment. It can make existing gum disease get worse much faster, as well as suppress some of the symptoms so it goes unnoticed.
What is the Link between Smoking and Oral Cancer?
Around 90% of mouth, tongue, lip and throat cancers occur in people who smoke or chew tobacco, and the risk is higher for heavy smokers or tobacco users, as well as those who’ve had the habit for longer.
Only 6% of those who quit tobacco use are at risk of developing oral cancer again if they’ve been cured of it in the past, but 37% of those who continue smoking will develop second cancers.
How Should You Quit Using Tobacco?
Here are some suggestions to help you kick the butt:
- Start by cutting down. Even going from 1.5 packs to half a pack a day cuts down your risk tremendously (for gum disease, by half!).
- Visit a dentist or doctor for prescription medication or use over-the-counter nicotine patches and gum to counter the effects of nicotine cravings.
- Join a smoking cessation program, class or support group at your local healthcare center. Interact with others making the effort to quit.
- Check with your doctor, dentist, employer and health insurance provider about programs and treatment options available locally.
- Try alternative treatments like hypnosis and herbal remedies that could help you fight your tobacco cravings.
- Ask friends, family members and colleagues for help and support. If any of them smoke, keep your distance till you’ve overcome your urge to light up!
Smokers face 6 times the risk of gum disease and oral cancer as non-smokers, but 11 years after quitting, your risk of gum disease is almost as low as for someone who never smoked. Go ahead, give up that unhealthy habit today!
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