It is pretty much common knowledge that smoking is bad for one’s health. We are all aware that is causes many medical problems, sometimes, even fatal ones. What many people don’t realize is the damage smoking does to their mouth, gums, throat and teeth. Due to the nature of how smoking is performed, it is only natural that our oral health would be one of the areas affected. Smoking can lead to tooth staining, gum disease, tooth loss, and in more severe cases, mouth cancer. Therefore, it is extremely important that a smoker take extra good care of their mouth and teeth. Dr. Joy Lunan would like to share the ways in which a smoker can keep these damaging effects from doing further harm through proper oral care.
Oral Health Problems Found in Smokers
The problem caused to the teeth and oral structures from smoking can be even more damaging when proper oral health care is not followed.One of the most common oral problems for smokers is gum disease, because they are four times more likely to produce bacterial plaque. This plaque targets the tissue that makes up the gums, bone, and supporting structures of the teeth. The gums are further affected because smoking causes a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, so the infected gums don’t heal. Smoking causes an excess of dental plaque and gum disease to worsen more quickly than in non-smokers. When the supporting structures of the teeth become compromised, tooth loss can occur. Smokers are two times more likely to experience tooth loss than a non-smoker.
Smokers are also more at risk for developing leukoplakia, which leads to throat, lung and oral cancer. As a matter of fact, smoking is one of the main causes of mouth cancer. Every year thousands of people die from mouth cancer brought on by smoking. It can cause inflammed salivary glands and lead to bone loss. Furthermore, smokers have a more difficullt time healing after dental procedures such as dental implants, periodontal treatments and tooth extractions. Smokers tend to develop dry sockets after tooth extraction procedures, which can cause severe pain for the patient due to the bone and nerve endings that may be exposed.
In continuation, smoking usually leads to vanity issues involving the teeth and gums. One of the effects of smoking is staining on the teeth due to nicotine and tar in the tobacco. It can make one’s teeth appear yellow in a very short amount of time. Heavy smokers even complain of a brown color after many years. Bad breath is another common problem with smokers. The tongue can develop a condition known as black hairy tongue, a growth caused by continued tobacco use. The tongue can turn yellow, green, black or brown and look, well - hairy. Smoking can also lead to a lack of taste and smell.
Dental Tips to Improve A Smoker’s Oral Health
Obviously quitting smoking is the most effective way to improve oral health, but Dr. Lunan has a few more tips as well. Knowing all of the risks associated with smoking, it is important, (for smokers especially) to remember not to skip regular checkups with Dr. Lunan. During these visits Dr. Lunan will check for signs of any developing gum disease and perform a Velscope Oral Cancer Screening, checking the cheeks, tongue and thoat for any signs of conditions that may need further investigation. Typically, non-smokers should visit Dr. Lunan twice per year, but those who smoke should consider more frequent visits.
By keeping up with regular dental vists with Dr. Lunan, smokers benefit from professional cleanings, and proper oral hygiene is extremely important for smokers. Smokers should remember to brush, floss and use a tongue scraper at least twice daily, if not more. One may prefer a stiffer bristled toothbrush to help remove stains left by the tar in tobacco. A toothpaste made specifically for smokers or a whitening toothpaste can be used as well as a mouthwash that targets and combats bad breath.
Smokers can also avoid foods that cause staining to the teeth. Coffee, tea, red wine and soda are known for staining even a non-smokers teeth.
Smokers should perform self checks on a reguar basis as well. Lasting sores on one’s face, mouth and neck are one of the things to look for. Recurrent bleeding in the mouth, any lesions, swelling, lumps or bumps should also be checked for. Red, white or dark patches on the inside of the mouth, under the tongue or on the cheeks that least for 2-3 weeks should be brought to Dr. Lunan’s attention. Also be aware of numbness in any part of the mouth and bumps on the lips or gum tissues.
There are many programs to help when you are ready to make the choice to have a healthier mouth and quit smoking. 1-800-QUITNOW is a toll free telephone service that will link callers to a trained quit coach in your area to help you. Dr. Lunan is here to help in any way. Please call us at (203) 598-7920 if you have any questions or just want to get started on a healthier path.