- Smoking can make it nearly impossible to maintain a healthy, white smile
- A dental patient who smokes is more likely to get oral cancer
- It is never too late to quit smoking and work towards oral health
In recent years it has become common knowledge that smoking is bad for your health, but did you know that it also has serious adverse effects on teeth? Having a healthy smile is important and having a white smile is certainly desired by many. Brushing, flossing, using mouth wash, and getting regular dental cleanings help contribute to a healthy, white smile, but smoking can make it nearly impossible to maintain one.
Effects of Smoking on Teeth
The American Dental Association reports that smoking can cause discoloration or staining, halitosis (bad breath), loss of taste, tartar build up, and eventual tooth decay. Smoking also contributes to and causes gum or periodontal disease. Gum disease results in inflammation around the tooth or teeth, which can cause gum recession. Often the inflammation moves down to the bone, which results in eventual tooth loss.
Additionally, long-time smokers typically have a weaker immune system. This puts them at a greater risk of recovering from surgeries. The longer it takes for a patient to recover, the more susceptible he or she is to complications and infections. A patient who smokes and must undergo dental surgery or an intensive dental procedure has a higher risk of having a longer and more dangerous recovery process.
However, the most serious concern regarding tobacco use and teeth is that a patient is more likely to get oral cancer. Cancer in the mouth is a very serious condition. Oral cancer is often very aggressive due to its location. The lymph nodes and blood vessels in your head become easy targets for the spreading cancer.
The effects of smoking can be challenging to reverse and long-lasting. For example, once your teeth are too discolored by tobacco, whitening treatments may not be effective. Additionally, if the smoking habit has resulted in gum recession, it may complicate the process of getting crowns and other types of restorative dental procedures.
If you're thinking that smokeless tobacco is a safer choice. Think again. Smokeless tobacco has been proven to contain at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals. The tobacco can still irritate your gums and the added sugar increases your risk of tooth decay.
How to Break the Habit
Now that you know how bad smoking is for your teeth and overall health, what can you do? Quit (with some help from your dentist).
The earliest signs of tobacco use are often located in the mouth. This means that dentists have a clear idea of their patients' health and can easily give advice. Dentists and dental hygienists are perfectly equipped to help a patient start the process of smoking cessation. They have access to a patient's medical history, speak to their patients one to two times a year during cleanings and check ups, which allows for support, and they can offer helpful information and tips on quitting.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has laid out five simple steps for smoking cessation. Dentists, like all health care providers, know these steps and can help you achieve your goal of quitting before it's too late and the damage is irreversible.
CDC's Steps to Quit:
- Set a date to quit by
- Setup a support system with your dentist, health care provider, and most importantly friends and family
- Consider using prescription or over the counter medications as directed
- Adopt behavioral distraction techniques to use when you experience the urge to smoke, such as brushing on the go or chewing gum
- Be prepared for setbacks and ask for help when needed
It is never too late to quit smoking or to work towards oral health. Ask your dentist about techniques to break the habit and start the process of smoking cessation.