The adverse health effects of tobacco use, from smoking cigarettes and cigars to using chewing tobacco or snuff, are now common knowledge. Depending on your age, you’ve probably grown up hearing about the health risks of tobacco use. While a lot of attention is given to the damage smoking can do to your lungs and other vital organs, not so much has been paid to the effect tobacco can have on your oral health. The effects of smoking on your oral health range from the cosmetic to more serious concerns such as cancer. But what are some of the specific consequences of tobacco on your smile? Let’s find out.
It Stains Your Teeth
If you’ve ever heard the phrase “smoker’s teeth,” then you know what people are talking about when they say that using tobacco can stain your teeth. The nicotine found in cigarettes and cigars has a tendency to turn the teeth yellow or brown. While you can try to remove the stains with teeth whitening products, doing so is often difficult because they have usually formed after years and years of smoking. Plus, if you keep on smoking, the stains are likely to come right back.
It Can Make Your Breath Smell Unpleasant
Using tobacco products, particularly smoking cigarettes or cigars, can be a cause of bad breath. When you smoke, tiny particles often linger in your mouth and lungs, creating an unpleasant odor. Although you typically exhale the smoke quickly after you take a puff, some of it can linger in the lungs, creating an unpleasant scent when you breathe out.
It Increases Your Risk for Gum Disease
Smoking or using other types of tobacco dramatically increases your risk of developing gum disease. In fact, it’s estimated that smoking or tobacco use is one of the biggest risk factors for gum disease. There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, smoking reduces your body’s ability to heal and to fight off infection. That gives the bacteria that cause gum disease a better chance to take hold and cause infection.
Additionally, smoking makes it more likely that a person will have tartar, or hardened plaque, on their teeth and gums, possibly because they produce less saliva to rinse away the plaque compared to non-smokers. Tartar irritates and inflames the gums and can be a trigger for gum disease.
Finally, smoking tends to speed up the progression of gum disease. People who smoke often have more severe damage to their gums and bone, resulting in accelerated tooth loss. On top of that, it is more difficult to treat gum disease in tobacco users than it is in people who don’t smoke or use tobacco products.
It Slows Down Healing After Oral Surgery
Smoking or using tobacco can interfere with surgical treatments to correct problems in the mouth, such as a root canal, wisdom tooth removal, or other oral surgery. Often, smoking slows down healing after a surgery, making the recovery process take much longer. One reason for that might be the fact that tobacco use slows down blood circulation and reduces the supply of oxygen to the body’s tissues. In some cases, using tobacco after oral surgery can increase a person’s risk of developing dry socket, an infection in the space left after a tooth is extracted.
It Increases Your Risk for Oral Cancer
You might be aware of the fact that smoking is one of the leading causes of lung cancer. But did you know what tobacco use also puts you at an increased risk for other forms of cancer? Chewing tobacco or snuff, in particular, can increase your risk of developing oral cancer. Many of the people who develop either cancer in the oral cavity or esophagus have been tobacco users or smokers at some point in their lives.
What You Can Do to Get Help Quitting Tobacco
While tobacco seems to bring only bad news when it comes to your oral health, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Quitting smoking or stopping the use of other tobacco products can help improve your overall health and reduce your risk of developing gum disease and other oral health problems. Your dentist and family doctor can work with you to help you get on a smoking or tobacco cessation program that works for you. Friends and family can provide support to you as you work on quitting tobacco.
A periodontal specialist can help you better understand the effects of tobacco on your teeth and gums and can help you work on quitting. Dr. John Paul Gallardo is a periodontal specialist in the Miami area offering patients custom treatment plans. He can recommend options that work for you and your needs. To schedule an appointment in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 today.