Studies have linked smoking and tobacco use to a variety of health problems, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. But one overlooked area that is significantly affected by tobacco is your oral health.
Smoking and chewing tobacco products can cause a range of issues that can affect the appearance and health of your teeth and gums.
Dental Problems Caused by Smoking
Cigarettes and cigars contain tobacco as well as a host of other chemicals and additives that are harmful to your health. Some of the dental problems directly related to tobacco smoke include:
- Foul-smelling breath
- An increased build-up of plaque – the by-product of oral bacteria which contributes to acid wear
- The development of tartar – a yellow, calcium deposit that can only be removed by professional dental cleaning
- Salivary gland inflammation which can inhibit the production of saliva necessary for cleaning and remineralising teeth
- An increased risk of developing white patches on the inside of your mouth known as Leukoplakia
- Jawbone loss
- Increased likelihood of gum disease which may lead to tooth loss
- Poor wound healing after dental procedures
- The development of oral cancer
How Smoking Leads to Gum Disease
Smoking and other tobacco products disrupt the mechanism by which the soft tissue and teeth attach. Research suggests the compounds present in tobacco smoke interfere with gum cell function, which means they are unable to repair themselves efficiently.
Smoking also reduces blood flow to the gums, depriving them of essential nutrients.
Some of the visible symptoms of gum disease include:
- Gums that bleed after brushing or flossing
- Gums that pull back from your teeth exposing the root underneath
- Swollen and tender gums
- Persistent bad breath
- Loose teeth
Gum disease may not affect every tooth. Molars are especially prone to gum disease due to smoking since they are further back in your mouth and more challenging to clean effectively. If you use tobacco products, the best way to determine whether you have gum disease is with regular check-up’s at your dentist in Gravesend.
How Smokeless Tobacco Products are Dangerous
Many tobacco users believe that smokeless tobacco products such as snuff and chewing tobacco are less detrimental to oral health. However, chewing tobacco contains higher levels of nicotine than cigarette smoke making it more addictive and harder to quit.
The tobacco used in chewing tobacco and snuff contains more than 25 dangerous chemicals that significantly increase your risk of oral and oesophageal cancers. The tobacco leaf and continual chewing action also irritate your gums, causing them to recede. Gum recession creates deep pockets between your gums and teeth where food can become trapped and increase your risk of tooth decay.
Some brands of chewing tobacco also contain abrasive particles which erode the protective enamel layer of your teeth, exposing the dentin underneath, which increases tooth sensitivity, decay and discolour your teeth.
Smoking and Oral Cancer
Studies have shown a clear correlation between smoking and cancer. While lung cancer is the most prevalent form of tobacco-related cancer, more than 60% of mouth and throat cancer is caused by smoking.
Stained Teeth and Bad Breath
The most visible side effect of using both smoked and smokeless tobacco products is stained teeth. The primary active ingredient in tobacco, nicotine, is colourless. When it combines with oxygen, it turns yellow.
Tar, also present in tobacco smoke, has a distinct brown pigment and the porous surface of your tooth enamel absorbs these substances. The result is a dark yellow stain that can only be removed with professional teeth whitening.
Bad breath is another common problem with smokers and is caused by a variety of tobacco-related issues such as poor oral hygiene, tooth decay and oral bacteria. Residual tobacco smoke in the mouth can also cause bad breath, and while regular brushing, flossing and rinsing with mouthwash can mask the smell, the only way to completely solve the issue is to quit smoking.
Side Effects of Chewing Tobacco
Cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco aren’t the only problematic ways of using tobacco. Chewing tobacco can also have a serious effect on your health. In addition to causing staining and bad breath, chewing tobacco can wear down your tooth enamel contributing to a range of problems from tooth decay to jawbone deterioration.
Chewing tobacco causes callouses to form where the wad is held and is linked to the development of oral cancer.
Some brands of chewing tobacco add sugar and flavourings, which can increase the risk of tooth decay due to the constant exposure of your teeth to sugar which causes acid wear.
The Effects of Tobacco Products on Oral Health
Using tobacco products has serious consequences for your oral health, from gum disease and tooth loss to oral cancer. No matter how long you have been smoking, quitting can significantly decrease your risk of oral health issues.
Even drastically reducing the amount you smoke can alleviate some of the symptoms of poor oral health. If you want to stop smoking and improve your quality of life, ask your dentist or doctor about products to help you quit.