If you smoke, you’ve probably heard your fair share of warnings about the consequences. But a smoking habit is of extra concern to your dentist due to the catastrophic impacts cigarettes have on your oral health. Here are five ways that smoking is damaging your teeth, gums, and mouth.
If you’re concerned about having an attractive smile, smoking should be the first thing to go. Cigarettes contain nicotine and a host of organic molecules known collectively as tar, which are quick and effective at staining enamel. Those stains can be difficult to get rid of, and even with professional whitening treatments, unless you quit smoking, whitening will be an uphill battle.
Of course, in the overall picture of the health effects of smoking, yellow teeth are the least of your problems.
Not only does smoking wear down your natural enamel, which protects your teeth from decay, but it also compromises your immune response, making it more difficult for your body to fight off bacteria. Smoking makes it easy for plaque to build up on your teeth, and even the most dedicated brushing and flossing routine may not be able to stand up to the effects of smoking on your teeth. And you know that cotton mouth feeling you get after smoking? That’s not your imagination–smoking can cause dry mouth. Since saliva is vital for protecting your teeth from decay, this is bad news for your teeth.
This nasty combination significantly increases your risk of cavities. That’s why it’s imperative that smokers in particular see a dentist for regular checkups and cleanings.
Just like a compromised immune system opens your teeth up to decay, it also puts your gums at risk. Smoking also constricts the blood vessels in your gums, depriving them of the resources they need to fight infection. In fact, experts agree that smoking is one of the biggest factors in the development of gum disease, more formally known as periodontitis.
Periodontitis is a bacterial infection that thrives in plaque. Although it starts with small symptoms like gums that are more prone to bleeding, if untreated and unchecked, it can get much worse: Periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults. Not to mention that gum disease seriously increases your risk of heart disease, dementia, and even diabetes.
You can’t talk about the health risks of smoking without mentioning the c-word: Cancer. Around 80% of people with oral cancer use tobacco. Oral cancer includes cancers of the lips, tongue, mouth tissues, and throat. The survival rate for oral cancer is usually high if it’s caught and treated early, but once it spreads, those numbers drop. Quitting smoking is the most impactful step you can take to reducing your risk of cancer.
If you’re concerned about the effects of smoking on your oral health, it’s important to talk to your dentist. Quitting smoking is step one, but your dentist can help you find the tools and develop the strategies to get your oral health back on track, even after smoking has already damaged it. With the help of an experienced dentist, you can wipe the effects of smoking out of your mouth and have a beautiful, healthy smile again.