By now, thanks to a bevy of clever public service announcements and the mandatory Surgeon General’s warning on the packaging, most people are aware that smoking and using tobacco products has a negative impact on your overall health. The risk of developing lung cancer, breathing problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other conditions are known to increase when you smoke. However, it may not be as widely known that smoking and tobacco products are also bad for your oral health.
How Does Tobacco Affect My Teeth?
Smoking cigarettes hinders your body’s ability to heal effectively. 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 damage tooth enamel. When chewed, these particles mix with your saliva, forming an abrasive paste that wears down teeth over time.
Smoking and tobacco use also limit the effectiveness of many dental procedures. This is because one of the effects of smoking is reduced blood flow, increased bacteria and inflammation in your mouth. These factors can make it difficult for restorative dental procedures to effectively heal and bond with the tissue in your mouth.
For example, implants and bridges might not be a viable option for a tobacco user because their surrounding teeth and jawbone may have weakened from infection or decay and aren’t strong enough to support these procedures. Research shows that due to slow 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.
Smokers have been shown to be twice as likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers and smoking stunts your immune system’s ability to fight infection. Therefore, using tobacco can help a simple infection to become something even worse like an abscess or even sepsis. Also, smokers are more likely to have gum disease and their cases are more severe. Smoking also stunts 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 major contributing factor of cancers of the mouth, lip, tongue and pancreas. Like cigarettes, chewing tobacco 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?
If you’re a smoker, you can begin by acknowledging that tobacco dependence is an addiction disorder. All aspects of nicotine addiction, including both the psychological and physiological ones, will need to be treated to break the habit, and it’s not uncommon for smokers to make several attempts at quitting several times before being successful. If you’re a smoker, work with both your medical doctor and your dentist to find a quitting strategy that can help you kick the habit for good.
Ultimately, the effects of smoking and using tobacco on your teeth, gums and mouth can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, oral cancer and pose a challenge with restorative dentistry. For more information or help restoring your teeth from the destruction caused by tobacco use, schedule with Dr. Mark Sowell of Sensational Smiles by calling (972) 382-6855 or schedule a complimentary consultation online today.