The number of people who smoke has fallen in recent years, down to 18 percent of adults in the U.S. in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A number of factors have contributed to the drop in smoking rates, such as a higher price for cigarettes and banning smoking in most public areas. While the number of people who still smoke is at a low, there is still room for improvement.
When it comes to your oral health, smoking or using other forms of tobacco, including chewing tobacco, is one of the worst things you can do. Tobacco use increases your risk for a number of problems, both cosmetic and serious. Quitting smoking today has a number of great benefits for your health, including the health of your teeth and gums.
Few people want yellow teeth and many go to great lengths to have their teeth whitened. But, people who smoke or use tobacco products are more likely to have discoloration and staining on their teeth and tongue. Any type of tobacco can discolor your teeth, thanks to the nicotine in the products. The tar in cigarettes also contributes to staining. The longer you smoke, the worse the discoloration will be. After years and years of tobacco use, some people’s teeth have gone from white to yellow to brown.
Smoking also contributes to bad breath, for a number of reasons. Smoke contains a number of compounds which are strongly scented. When you inhale and exhale the smoke, those compounds can linger around for hours, giving your breath a strong odor. The act of smoking also dries out your mouth, which creates a better environment for bacteria to grow and contributes to halitosis.
Increased Risk for Gum Disease
Tobacco use can increase your risk for gum disease considerably. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, smoking might be one of the top risk factors for periodontal disease. The habit increases the amount of plaque and tartar you have on your teeth and gums, which increases your risk for gum disease. Using tobacco can also lead to bone loss in the jaw or cause the gums to pull away from the teeth.
As well as increasing your risk for developing gum disease, continuing to smoke after diagnosis can affect the effectiveness of the treatment and your healing time. People who smoke have less success healing after both non-surgical treatments and surgery. Healing might be delayed because tobacco use suppresses your immune system or because it interrupts blood flow and the revascularization of the soft tissue of the gums and the bone.
Impact on Dental Implants
In some cases, years of smoking might mean that you need to have a tooth replaced. Advanced forms of gum disease can cause you to lose your teeth, for example, or you might have a tooth that is sufficiently damaged and is better off being replaced. Dental implants often provide replacement teeth that are permanently positioned in the mouth and that look and feel like natural teeth.
Smoking can impact whether or not the dental implants you receive are successful. A 2011 study published in the European Journal of Oral Implantology found that people who smoked were more likely to experience implant failure up to five years after the device was placed, compared to non-smokers. It’s thought that the slowed-down healing many smokers experience contributes to the increased likelihood of implant failure.
Getting Help Quitting
If you want not only to improve the health of your teeth and gums, but also your overall health, one of the best things you can do is quit smoking or using any form of tobacco product. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 70 percent of current smokers want to quit.
Quitting can be challenging, which is why it’s important to get as much as help as you can. A doctor or dentist can be a helpful ally during the fight to quit, as they can provide medical guidance and assistance. You can also try joining a support group made up of former smokers or people in the process of quitting.
There are a number of aids available to help you quit, including prescription medication, nicotine replacement products such as the patch or gum, and counseling. You might find that you replace your cigarettes with healthier habits such as going for a walk, yoga or meditation.
If you’re concerned about the damage that smoking has done to your gums, it’s a good idea to see a periodontist for diagnosis and treatment. In the Miami area, Dr. John Paul Gallardo and Dr. William Lamas specialize in treating periodontal disease, as well as providing implants to replace teeth. To learn more about the effects of smoking on your teeth or about your treatment options, call (305) 447-1447 for an appointment today.