How Smoking Affects Your Oral Health

It’s no secret: smoking is really, really bad for you. Smoking negatively impacts nearly every organ in your body; if you compare the loss of life caused by cigarette smoking and loss of life in wars, you’ll find that cigarettes are 10x more lethal to American citizens than every war they’ve fought combined. Other types of smoke inhalation can cause problems too, so for those who are excited about marijuana legalization in October, remember that smoking green can have negative consequences as well.

Smoking seems to interfere with the regular functioning of the cells in your gums. Over time, this can weaken the attachment of your gums to the underlying bone structure, making you more prone to infection. Blood flow to the gums is also impeded by smoking, so it can be difficult to actually deal with any infection that occurs; as a result, wounds heal less quickly, which makes them more prone to infection, and the cycle continues.

Tooth loss and bone loss can follow a smoking habit, not to mention the cosmetic woes of persistent bad breath and stained teeth. There are however even more insidious problems that can develop as a result of a prolonged smoking habit. Oral and throat cancers are the worst among these; while prognoses have improved, there is still potential for these cancers to be lethal, and treatment for them is intense and unpleasant.

There’s a variety of things smokers can do to improve the cosmetic symptoms of their habit; there are more abrasive toothpastes which can help remove stains, but they must be used with caution, as the teeth may already have weakened enamel and other problems. Mouthwash is often used by smokers to mask bad breath, but keep in mind that this is not curing the underlying problem, but simply masking its symptoms.

The best way of reducing the risk of smoking-related oral problems is to stop smoking. This is a challenging undertaking; nicotine is extremely addictive, after all, and other products like chewing tobacco aren’t any better for your mouth. The big new player on the market is e-cigarettes, but research is insufficient to recommend them as a healthy smoking alternative. To maximally reduce your risk, cutting it out altogether is the best move.

We’re proud to have experienced dentists who will consult with you about smoking cessation. The good news is that new techniques are constantly being developed to help you quit, so if you’ve tried before without success, there’s something new for you to do. Remember that any reduction is also good for you; if you go from a pack a day to half a pack, you’ve already had a positive impact on your health. Behavioural therapy, hypnotism, and even acupuncture have been found to help smoking cessation efforts. Nicotine patches and other medication can help as well. Your dentist can go over the options with you; seeing one regularly as a smoker is doubly important, as they can catch the early warning signs of gum disease and mouth cancer.