From staining the teeth to causing tooth loss, smoking can do a lot of damage to the teeth and surrounding structures.
What does smoking do to your mouth?
Smoking and consumption of other tobacco products can have a fatal effect on your body. Although the adverse effects of smoking on overall health have been reinforced time and again, not many are aware of the problems smoking can bring about in the oral cavity. The ill-effects of smoking on oral health are outlined below:
Risk of Oral cancer/ Premalignant lesions
The risk of developing cancer increases exponentially with smoking. The incidence of cancer associated with oral structures like mouth, tongue, lips or throat have been linked to tobacco use 90% of the time. Smokers are also prone to the development of various precancerous lesions like leukoplakia or lichen planus.
Increased incidence of gum diseases and tooth loss
Smoking can lead to gum diseases by interfering with the normal functioning of the gum tissue cells. It can also cause rapid progression of existing gum diseases by impeding with the oxygen circulation. This eventually causes depletion of the bone supporting the teeth and leads to tooth loss.
Although tooth decay is associated with the intake of sugar and poor oral hygiene, smoking is also considered to be one of the causes of tooth decay. Various studies have associated nicotine intake to the increase in growth of several caries-causing bacteria.
Staining of teeth
Regular smoking can make your white teeth appear yellow or brown in a short period of time due to the deposition of tar, nicotine and other chemicals in the teeth.
Smoking dries out your mouth by decreasing the salivary flow. This causes the typical foul-smelling smoker’s breath.
Poor healing/unsuccessful dental procedures
Smoking has a negative impact on the body’s natural healing process and immune system. This can cause a major setback in the success of many dental rehabilitation procedures like placement of dental implants.
What can you achieve by quitting?
Quitting smoking definitely has a positive impact on health and life expectancy. In fact, studies have shown that after 15 years, the risk of an ex-smoker developing cardiac diseases is similar to that of a person who has never smoked before. Few reasons why you should quit smoking are:
- Immediate health benefits
- Reduced risk of developing systemic illness or terminal diseases
- Positive impact on oral health
- Reduced risk of passing on ‘second-hand’ smoke to your loved ones
What are the ways you could quit smoking?
Breaking the habit of smoking can be quite challenging. Nicotine is an addictive substance which makes giving up smoking exceedingly hard. Quitting smoking often demands extreme determination and will-power. Start with identifying why and when you smoke and avoid situations which can trigger smoking. There are number of natural methods that can aid you in evading this deadly habit:
- Get plenty of exercise
- Keep your mind off cravings by staying busy
- Relax your mind with meditation or yoga
- Opt for behavioral therapy
The Lung Association also suggests adopting the “four Ds” which are - drink water, deep breathing, delay and do something different.
If you have been a heavy smoker, kicking the habit naturally might be quite taxing. In such cases, you may opt for the several chemical substitutes that are available:
Nicotine Replacement Therapy
There are plenty of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products in the market that can help you in taking a step towards quitting. Few of the NRTs include nicotine chewing gum, nicotine patches, nasal sprays, inhalers and lozenges. Although the studies determining the efficacy of one product over the other have been inconclusive, it has been noted that using a combination of any of these products works the best
Along with the conventional NRTs, there are a few non-nicotine products that help in reducing nicotine cravings. They interfere with the nicotine receptors in the brain and create an aversion towards smoking. They are usually prescribed by a medical practitioner.
What can your dentist do for you?
Your dentist will carry out a thorough examination of your teeth, gums, tongue and cheeks to make sure they are healthy. If smoking has damaged your gums or stained your teeth, they can carry out the treatment to reverse the damage. Certain early signs of cancer can be detected in the oral cavity before the symptoms develop in the rest of the body, visiting the dentist can help you prevent potentially life-threatening diseases.
Quitting smoking is the best way to help you bring back your healthy mouth. If you are unable to, do not get discouraged as it takes several attempts to successfully stop smoking. Visit your dentist on regular intervals to ensure your teeth and gums are healthy. Follow all the oral hygiene procedures and keep working towards a healthier lifestyle.