11 Effects of Smoking on Oral Health
By now, almost everyone knows that smoking has been linked to lung disease, cancer, and heart disease. But most people aren’t aware that smokers are much more likely to lose their teeth. The reason is that smoking is a leading risk factor for periodontal (gum) disease.
It’s an infection of the teeth, gums, and bone that surrounds the teeth. The leading cause of this infection is the bacteria and plaque, which is a sticky, colorless film that always forms on your teeth. Bacterial plaque produces toxins. And these toxins, combined with your body’s reaction to them, destroy the bone that holds your teeth in place. While periodontal (gum) disease is a significant concern amongst patients, there are several other oral health problems that smokers face.
Here’s a look at the 11 effects of smoking on your oral health.
- Oral Cancer
There is a strong association of smoking with oral cancer. And with nearly 7,000 cases diagnosed every year, it’s never too late to quit. In terms of survival, oral cancer which is diagnosed early may have a cure rate of up to 90% using surgery alone. Thanks to dental technology that helps patients recover faster.
Smoking contributes to periodontal (gum) disease by:
- Reducing saliva production
- Damaging the body’s ability to fight infection
- Here’s a look at the science behind it.
Saliva helps wash bacteria from the teeth. And less saliva means more plaque and tartar. Also, saliva contains disease-fighting antibodies that control destructive bacteria in the mouth.
Smoking also destroys your immune system by causing your blood vessels to constrict. This reduces the flow of infection-fighting white blood cells, oxygen, and nutrients to the gums.
What’s more? Continuing to smoke after periodontal (gum) treatment makes it much harder for your gums to heal. When you stop smoking, you strengthen the fight against periodontal (gum) disease and are working to keep your teeth strong and healthy.
Loss of Taste
Smoking can significantly dull your taste buds and make food less palatable. The nicotine content in cigarettes may result in functional and morphological changes. So the next time you’re out for dinner with the family, and you can’t taste the pepperoni in the pizza, you’ll know why.
Teeth have pores, just like your skin. Nicotine and tar present in tobacco easily soak up into these pores, resulting in a yellow or brown discoloration. While nicotine, by itself, is colorless, when in contact with oxygen, it turns yellow. And that’s how smokers stain their teeth.
When you’re smoking, you probably end up with bad breath too. A lot of smokers end up taking breath mints, or different candies to cover up that smell which is also going to deteriorate the teeth.
Smoking affects dental implants
Studies indicate that the nicotine present in tobacco reduces blood flow. When getting dental implants, a lack of blood flow isn’t a good sign since you need plenty of blood flow for effective and quick healing.
Reduced healing capacity after dental treatments
Smokers are more likely to develop a ‘dry socket.’ When smokers undergo extraction of wisdom tooth, for instance, it heals poorly and can be really painful. Smokers also have a higher chance of experiencing pain after oral and gum surgery.
Leukoplakia is most commonly linked to smoking. It’s a condition wherein thick, white patches develop on your tongue and the lining of your mouth. With mild leukoplakia, you usually have nothing to worry about, and it goes away on its own. But in more severe cases, it may be linked to oral cancer.
Loss of bone within the jaw
Studies indicate a direct connection between tobacco abuse and reduced bone density. This can develop into an increased loss of bone within the jaw that results in tooth loss at the risk of displacement.
Increased possibility of tooth loss
Smokers have a higher chance of losing their teeth. Male smokers have up to 3.6 times chance more to lose their teeth than non-smokers, while female smokers have up to 2.5 times.
If you have any questions about how smoking affects your mouth, make sure you visit your dentist early to check for severe oral problems. The above issues creep up on you uninformed, so before you decide to take another puff, think about the possible difficulties you may have to face.
by dr. Anu Isaac
Dr. Anu Isaac, DMD, runs a successful dental practice in Salem, MA. As the founder of Coral Dental Care, she is dedicated to creating healthy, beautiful smiles for her patients and also to educating the dental and non-dental community with her engaging articles on all things related to oral health, recent dental innovations, and latest treatment modalities.