If you’re a smoker or you know someone who is, you might want to pay attention. The Center for Disease Control reported that more than one-third of smokers have at least three dental health issues and that 15 out of every 100 adults are a smoker. That’s an awful lot of people battling an addiction that is both difficult to quit and damaging to your overall health.
Whether you’re an occasional smoker or a pack-a-day kind of person, you need to understand the harmful effects smoking has on you—and especially your mouth. Here are the facts about smoking and what it does to your dental health and what you can do to take control.
Your teeth take the majority of the damage on when smoking cigarettes. Your teeth not only touch the cigarette itself but come in contact with the dangerous toxins that are in a cigarette that you inhale. These toxins are highly damaging to teeth and break down the strength of teeth over time. Some symptoms include:
- Yellow or brown teeth
- Bleeding gums
- Hardening of plaque (or calculus)
- Tooth decay
- Dry mouth
These symptoms are just a few of the harmful things cigarettes and tobacco do to your teeth. If you experience these symptoms and continue to smoke, you may be at risk for:
- Root canals
- Tooth loss
- Loss of or irreparable tooth enamel
If you begin to notice any of these symptoms, speak to your dentist who will provide you with tips, suggestions and dental care.
Gum disease, one of the most prominent problems that develop from smoking is 64.2% more likely to happen in smokers than non-smokers, according to the CDC. That’s a staggering number of people who will battle symptoms of gum disease.
Gum disease is so common in smokers because bacteria builds up in the mouth and gums, and the gums become inflamed, making it an easy target for bacteria to infiltrate and cause periodontal disease.
Bacteria production is increased due to the nicotine in cigarettes reducing the amount of oxygen delivered to the gums or soft tissue in the mouth. The effects are much like that of chronic dry mouth. Nicotine also constricts the blood vessels, which means gums are less likely to bleed and makes it more difficult for dentists to diagnose.
The effects of smoking on your gums can be:
- Loose teeth
- Oozing or pus between teeth
- Pain when chewing
- Bad breath
- Receding gums
These symptoms can tip off gum disease, so if you’re experiencing this or severe pain in your gums, contact your dentist right away for help.
If you haven’t kicked the butts yet, you’ll want to increase how regimented you are with your oral hygiene routine. Make sure you are:
- Rinsing with mouthwash for 60 seconds each day
- Flossing once each day, which is a great way to avoid plaque buildup
- Brush your teeth with a soft-bristle toothbrush twice per day, two minutes each
- Have your tongue and gums checked at all dental appointments
- Visit the dentist every six months
How to Quit
Quitting is difficult, and shouldn’t be done haphazardly. To quit, you need a good plan, some alternatives and a whole lot of support from family and friends.
Nicotine replacement—Research is still unclear if E-cigarettes or vaping are safe alternatives to tobacco cigarettes. These methods do remove the nicotine threat, but medical professionals are still unsure if there are other effects on health from them. Patches, lozenges, or therapies are also options.
Trigger avoidance—Sidestepping any triggers that make you want to smoke. Maybe it’s drinking, eating certain foods or attending social events. Whatever the reason, avoid it until you feel you can handle it.
Cold turkey—If you have a solid support system and feel you can tolerate the withdrawal, cutting cigarettes completely may be an option for you.
If you want healthy teeth and gums that last a lifetime, make sure you take care of them. Quit smoking and visit your dentist for support, tips and how to take care of your teeth moving forward. Contact West Chester Dental Arts to get started!