Whether it’s a cigarette, pipe or cigar, smoking will most certainly damage your oral health. Most people probably think about coughing, heart disease, or lung cancer as the worst side effects of smoking. But tobacco does much more than stain teeth, it can lead to gum disease, tooth loss, and even mouth cancer.
It’s essential to understand the effects of smoking and do everything possible to keep your mouth healthy.
How Smoking Affects Your Dental Health
While anyone can encounter problems with their oral health, smokers are more at risk than the general population. Here are the most common ways smoking can affect your teeth and mouth.
One of the most common side effects of smoking is stained teeth. Like our skin, teeth have pores that are vulnerable to external materials. These pores absorb tobacco substances like nicotine and tar, leaving your teeth yellow or brown in the process.
Smoking can lead to early gum disease or gingivitis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that smokers are twice as likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers. If left untreated, gingivitis can escalate to periodontitis, which can cause tooth loss.
There are several symptoms that smokers should look out for, such as:
- Red, swollen, or tender gums
- Bleeding while brushing or flossing
- A receding gum line
- Loose or separating teeth (as the gums pull away from the teeth)
- Consistent bad breath
- Sores in the mouth
Many people with mild cases of gum disease can solve the issue by changing their dental habits. On the other hand, it is much harder for people who smoke to recover. This is because smoking weakens the immune system and lowers oxygen levels in the blood, making it more difficult for the gums to battle infections. As gum disease worsens, the bones and tissues that help hold teeth in place break down, which leads to loose teeth and tooth loss.
Mouth and Throat Cancer
The chance of developing mouth or throat cancer increases significantly for smokers. Those who smoke are ten times more at risk of getting cancer than those who don’t. This is because tobacco contains harmful chemicals that can damage cells that help protect us from cancer. Symptoms to look out for include:
- Mouth sores or lumps
- Loose teeth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Ear pain
If not treated promptly, mouth cancer can become life-threatening.
Smokeless Tobacco Effects on Dental Health
Many people turn toward smokeless tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco, vape pens, and e-cigarettes, as “healthy” alternatives to smoking. However, these products can be just as damaging. The harmful chemicals and substances in tobacco cause tooth discoloration, gingivitis, and mouth cancer. While some smokeless products, such as vape pens, promote themselves as “tobacco-free,” they still contain nicotine. This chemical is often responsible for the damaged gums and poor tooth health found in smokers.
Quit Smoking to Improve the Health of Your Teeth
The best thing you can do to protect your oral health is to quit smoking. Regardless of how long you have used tobacco products, quitting now can greatly reduce serious risks to your health. Even reducing the amount you smoke will help. There are lots of resources out there to help you quit. Here are a few:
How to Maintain Healthy Oral Hygiene if You Smoke
While quitting smoking is the best way to ensure better oral health, we know that it can be quite challenging. If you do smoke, we encourage you to follow these tips to help protect your teeth and gums:
- Rinse your mouth with water after smoking.
- Brush your teeth (including your tongue) immediately after smoking.
- Practice good oral hygiene. Brush at least twice a day, floss or clean between your teeth at least once a day, and use an antimicrobial mouth rinse and tongue scraper.
- Stay hydrated to reduce dry mouth caused by smoking.
- Visit your dentist regularly for dental checkups and cleanings.
Contact JR Dental Today!
Whether you’ve only smoked for a few years or you’ve been a lifelong smoker, JR Dental can help make sure you keep your teeth and mouth healthy. Call us at (904) 786-5850 to schedule an appointment today!