By now, thanks to vigorous public awareness campaigns and the mandatory Surgeon General’s warning on the packaging, most people are aware that smoking and using tobacco products has a negative effect on your overall health. The risk of developing lung cancer, breathing problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other serious conditions all increase due to smoking and tobacco use. However, what may not be as widely known is that smoking and using tobacco products is also bad for your oral health. Dr. Leah Romay of Baltimore Dental Co. in Glyndon, MD would like to educate people about the risks of smoking to your teeth.
How Does Tobacco Affect My Teeth?
Smoking cigarettes slows down your ability to heal due to reduced blood flow that is a side effect of nicotine. This means that your teeth wear down faster. Additionally, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff and unprocessed tobacco leaves (used as cigar wrappers) all contain tiny abrasive particles that are harmful to tooth enamel. When chewed and mixed with your saliva and chewed, the resulting substance wears down your teeth over time.
Smoking and tobacco use also limit the effectiveness of many dental treatments. As previously stated, smoking causes reduced blood flow. However, bacteria and inflammation are increased. This combination can make it difficult to replace lost teeth using restorative dental procedures.
For example, implants and bridges might not be an option for a tobacco user because your surrounding teeth and jawbone may have been weakened by infection or tooth decay and aren’t strong enough to support the changes needed for these procedures. Research shows that due to slower healing and weaker jawbone tissue, the implant failure rate for smokers was almost 16 percent, compared to just 1.4 percent in nonsmokers.
Treating gum disease is harder.
First of all, smokers are twice as likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers. However, smoking also stunts your immune system’s ability to fight back against infection. Therefore, using tobacco products can cause a simple infection to turn into something worse like an abscess or even sepsis. Also, smokers that are being treated for gum disease have a harder time recovering from the symptoms of gum disease. Smoking also hampers the growth of blood vessels, which means less blood flow to the gum tissues which slows healing after oral surgery.
What about chewing tobacco?
Smokeless tobacco (also known as snuff or chewing tobacco) is a primary cause of cancers of the mouth, lip, tongue and pancreas. Like cigarettes, chewing contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals.
Issues caused by smokeless tobacco include:
- Risk for cancer of the voice box, esophagus, colon and bladder due to swallowing toxins in the juice created by chewing.
- Irritation of your gums, which can lead to gum (periodontal) disease.
- Increased risk of tooth decay as sugar is often added to enhance the flavor of chewing tobacco.
- Tooth sensitivity and erosion due to sand and grit from smokeless tobacco wearing down teeth.
What can I do to reduce the effects of smoking on oral health?
If you’re a smoker, you can start by coming to terms with the fact that tobacco dependence is an addiction disorder. All aspects of nicotine addiction, including both the psychological and physiological ones, need to be addressed in order to successfully break the habit, and it’s not uncommon for smokers to make several tries at quitting several times before succeeding. If you’re a smoker, work with both your medical doctor and your dentist to find a strategy that can help you quit for good.
Ultimately, the effects of smoking and using tobacco on teeth can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and create a challenge with enjoying the benefits of restorative dentistry. For more information or help restoring your teeth from the destruction caused by tobacco use, schedule with Dr. Romay of Baltimore Dental Co. by calling 410.220.4680 or schedule online today.