By now, thanks to public service announcements and the mandatory Surgeon General’s warning, most of us are aware that smoking and using tobacco products are bad for our overall health. It increases the risk of developing lung cancer, breathing problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other conditions.
However, it may not be as widely known that smoking and tobacco products have a negative impact on our oral health as well. Dr. V. Lynn Morgan of Severna Park, MD wants to educate her patients about the detrimental effects that tobacco use has on dental health and well-being.
How Does Tobacco Affect My Teeth?
Smoking cigarettes slows down your ability to heal. This slow healing 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 can damage tooth enamel. When chewed and mixed with your saliva and chewed, an abrasive paste is created that can wear away your tooth enamel.
Smoking and tobacco use also limit the effectiveness of many dental procedures. Smoking can affect your mouth include by reducing blood flow, and increasing bacteria and inflammation which can make it difficult to heal after using restorative dental procedures to replace teeth.
For example, implants and bridges might not be a viable option for a tobacco user because your surrounding teeth and jawbone may have weakened from infection or decay and cannot support these treatments. Dental research shows that, due to slower healing and weaker jawbone tissue, the failure rate of dental implants for smokers was almost 16 percent, compared to only 1.4 percent in nonsmokers.
Treating gum disease is harder.
Not only are smokers twice as likely to develop gum disease than nonsmokers but smoking stunts your immune system’s ability to fight off infection. This means that using tobacco can turn a simple infection into something far worse like an abscess or even sepsis. Also, smokers that are being treated for gum disease have a much harder time coping with the symptoms of gum disease. Smoking hinders 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 tobacco includes at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals as ingredients. Ailments caused by chewing tobacco include:
- Increased risk of 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 start by recognizing that tobacco dependence is an addiction and you must address all aspects of nicotine addiction, including both the psychological and physiological ones to break the habit. It’s not uncommon for smokers to make several failed attempts at quitting several times before succeeding. If you’re a smoker, it’s best to work with both your medical doctor and your dentist to find a strategy that will help you quit for good.
Ultimately, the effects of smoking and using tobacco on teeth can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and make restorative dentistry difficult. For more information about quitting smoking or help restoring your teeth from the destruction caused by tobacco use, schedule with Dr. V. Lynn Morgan of Severna Park, MD by calling (410) 415-9015 or contact us online today.