You know that smoking is bad for your overall health and your teeth, but you likely don’t understand all the ways that it can affect your oral health. If you are trying to quit smoking, then learning what cigarettes do to your teeth may give you some extra encouragement. Or, if you are thinking of starting to smoke, this knowledge may deter you and keep your mouth healthier.
How Smoking Damages Your Gums
One of the most significant issues with smoking is the damage that it causes to your gums. Smoking and using other tobacco products can interfere with how your gum tissue cells normally function. This has negative effects on how your soft tissue and bone attach to your teeth. It also increases the risk of infections and worsens blood flow. That reduction in blood flow can make it harder for wounds to heal.
How Smoking Can Damage Your Oral Health
The following is a list of just some of the ways that smoking can damage your oral health:
- Discolor your teeth
- Cause bad breath
- Increase jaw bone loss
- Increase buildup of tartar and plaque
- Increase gum disease risk, which can cause tooth loss
- Reduce success of dental implants
- Increase the risk of white patches inside your mouth (leukoplakia)
- Slow down healing after oral treatments and surgeries
- Increase risk of oral cancer
- Inflame the roof of the mouth’s salivary gland openings
How Much Smoking Increases Your Risk
Smokers have twice the risk of developing gum disease as non-smokers. Additionally, smoking more cigarettes increases your risk even greater. So does smoking cigarettes for longer.
What About Cigars or Smokeless Tobacco?
Once you know that cigarettes can cause the above problems, you may want to find an alternative. But, cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco all cause similar issues. In fact, a study from the Journal of the American Dental Association found that pipe and cigar smokers lost bone and teeth at the same rate as cigarette smokers. Meanwhile, smokeless tobacco can cause all of the above issues and irritate your gums more, causing other issues, such as gum recession.
Treating the Problems Caused by Smoking Can Be Hard
Remember that not only can smoking cause oral health problems, but it can make it harder to heal. This means that certain treatments, such as dental implants, may be less effective if you are still smoking.
Additionally, the tooth discoloration from smoking is usually too much for whitening toothpaste to handle. Instead, you will typically need professional whitening. However, your dentist may be hesitant to do the treatment if you smoke, as your oral health is likely poor, increasing the potential risks. There is also the fact that continuing to smoke after whitening would repeat your original problems.
Quitting Can Improve Your Oral Health
Some of the damage that smoking does to your oral health will be permanent. That being said, Dr. Sharma still suggests quitting if you can. Remember that your risk of gum disease decreases if you smoke for less time or fewer cigarettes.
Additionally, some research shows that quitting smoking can improve your oral health. One study followed 49 smokers with chronic gum disease. About a fifth of the participants successfully stopped during the study, and those who quit had better oral health.
If you would like more information on dental care and hygiene, contact our dental offices in Chicago today!