Smoking and Oral Health
Tobacco use is the most significant risk factor of developing periodontal disease (gum disease) and oral cancer by exposing your body to a deadly mix of more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic and about seventy cause cancer. When these chemicals enter your body, they cause damage. Your immune system works overtime making white blood cells to respond to damages they cause including injuries, infections, and even cancers. This constant stress disrupts how your body works. Aside from the link between tobacco and systemic diseases like heart disease, stroke, emphysema, and cancer (mostly lung and throat cancers), smoking leads to the following oral health consequences:
- Bad breath
- Tooth discoloration
- Increased staining
- Inflammation of the salivary gland openings
- Increased buildup of plaque and tartar on teeth
- Increased staining
- Increased loss of bone
- Increased risk of white patches inside the mouth (can be cancerous)
- Increased risk of developing gum disease (which may lead to tooth loss) and tooth decay
- Delayed healing process following dental treatment
- Increased risk of developing oral cancer
Teeth and Supporting Tissues
Gum recession: occurs when the gingival tissues move away down the length of the tooth, exposing the root surfaces and making teeth appear longer than they should. Recession occurs frequently on the facial surfaces of teeth where smokeless tobacco is placed.
Gingival bleeding: less common among smokers than nonsmokers due to the vasoconstriction of peripheral arteries (poor blood supply to the gums). Impaired gingival bleeding may delay the recognition of gum disease. At Dentate Smile Design, we complete a comprehensive periodontal evaluation at each visit in order to assess the health of your tissue.
Halitosis: Bad breath and dry mouth are common causes from smoking. It can slow down the production of saliva, which enables the proliferation of bacteria and plaque (sticky film on your teeth). Saliva is an essential fluid produced by the body that protects the teeth and gums by inhibiting bacterial growth.
Tobacco stains: can penetrate into enamel (outer layer of the tooth) as well as fillings, creating brown/yellowish coloration of the teeth.
Tooth Abrasion: holding a pipe or cigar in the same place can cause the wearing down of teeth. This can lead to sensitivity of the teeth as well as a notching appearance. Abrasives contained in chewing tobacco can wear away a considerable portion of the biting and facial surfaces of the teeth and gums.
Tooth decay: Smoking can contribute to build up of plaque (sticky film) and tartar (hardened plaque), which may cause dental decay. Also, a smoker tends to have a dry mouth, which disables the saliva to wash away the bacteria particles.
Tobacco and the products that come from chewing tobacco come in contact with many parts of the oral cavity like the gums, lips, tongue, cheeks, and the back of the throat. Oral cancer may appear as a white, red or white and red lesion. In addition, there may be an ulcer, bleeding or a protruding mass. Sometimes, none of these conditions are evident, as they may be painless at early stages. Our Rochester Hills Dental Office completes an oral cancer screen at each visit. An intra oral photo is taken of the lesion and is documented with the size, color, location and duration.
Want to quit?
Wanting to quit and making the commitment to do so is the first and most important step. At our Rochester Hills Dental practice, we offer smoking cessation. There are medications available that can make quitting easier, and you can get support materials. Schedule your appointment at Dentate Smile Design in order to provide you with more information to help you quit smoking.
National Cancer Institute. (2007). Tobacco Effects in the Mouth, 1-27