Smoking is bad for you. You’ve heard this before, and if you’re a smoker, you’ve probably been told countless times that smoking is bad for your overall health. It’s bad for your lungs and your heart. It can lead to things like COPD and cancer; it can increase your risk for tuberculosis, eye problems, and the list goes on.
But on top of a whole list of systemic health problems, did you know that smoking is also very detrimental to your oral health? Smoking can lead to severe oral problems including tooth discoloration, loose teeth, staining, bad breath, tooth loss, and even mouth cancer.
Effects of Smoking on Your Oral Health
Staining. One of the first noticeable effects of smoking on the mouth is the staining of your teeth. The tar and nicotine in tobacco can cause your enamel to turn yellow or even brown for longtime smokers.
Bad breath. Not only does the tobacco from cigarettes cause immediate odor, but smoking can also cause dry mouth which leads to halitosis (bad breath), lasting hours after your last cigarette.
Black Hairy Tongue. Yes, this is as gross as it sounds. In some cases, smoking can cause your tongue to appear black and hairy. It is caused by a buildup of dead skin cells and is exacerbated by tobacco use.
Gum Disease. Gum disease starts when tartar and plaque build up and start to harbor harmful bacteria. These bacteria then infect the gums and cause them to become inflamed. Because smoking reduces blood flow, oxygenation, and overall immune response, smokers are seven times more likely to develop gum disease than nonsmokers. Not only are your gums more susceptible to this harmful bacteria, but smoking also lowers your body’s ability to fight against it.
Tooth loss. Loose teeth and tooth loss can be a result of gum disease. As the disease progresses, your gums become detached from the bone, allowing your teeth to come loose. If they don’t fall out on your own, they typically have to be extracted.
Mouth Cancer. According to John Hopkins Medicine, smokers are at a 10 times higher risk for oral cancer when compared to nonsmokers.
Simply put, the best way to prevent these issues is to quit smoking, but we know that’s easier said than done. Here are some other things you can do, at the very least, to help combat the damage to your mouth from smoking.
Brush and floss. Okay, we tell everyone to brush and floss, but it is especially important for smokers because of the increased bacteria that smoking causes. You should brush at least twice a day, and don’t forget your tongue! The use of electric toothbrushes and waterpiks may be helpful. In addition, make sure you’re using toothpaste with fluoride to protect your enamel and prevent excessive tartar buildup. Ask us about what toothpaste you should be using – a prescription toothpaste may even be recommended.
Don’t miss a checkup. Sometimes it’s easy to miss one of your two yearly dental checkups. But if you’re a smoker, it’s even more imperative that you come and get your teeth deep cleaned. It is also important that you get dental x-rays so your dentist can proactively work to prevent some of the more severe consequences.
Be Aware. One of the best ways to protect your oral health as a smoker is to be aware that smoking does put extra stress on your gums, teeth, and mouth, so you should be more in tune to them. Look out for things like if your teeth feel more sensitive than normal if you notice white spots on your gums, and if your gums are bright red or swollen. All of these are signs you need to call your dentist.
If you have questions about your oral health or would like to schedule an appointment to get your teeth checked out, contact the Dental Care Center today!