It’s no surprise that tobacco use can lead to a host of health problems ranging from cardiovascular disease to lung cancer. While we often associate tobacco use with bodily health risks, it can be just as devastating to dental health.
According to data from the 2008 National Health Interview Survey, smokers are significantly more likely to face oral health problems like gum disease or tooth loss. The survey found that current smokers were 4 times as likely as nonsmokers to have poor oral health status. A study from the Academy of General Dentistry found similar results. Researchers estimate that men lose 2.9 teeth for every 10 years of smoking while women lose 1.5 teeth per decade.
Why do tobacco products negatively impact dental health? We encourage our patients here in Manhattan to learn more about how tobacco products affect the health of your mouth along with the rest of your body.
Top 5 Consequences Of Tobacco Use
If the overall health consequences aren’t enough to deter you from tobacco use, consider how it can affect the health and appearance of your smile. Some of the most notable oral health consequences of tobacco use include:
- Tooth Discoloration: Have you ever noticed that many smokers have stained or discolored teeth? This is no coincidence! Two substances in tobacco — nicotine and tar — are the main culprits behind the dulled appearance of a smoker’s smile. Tar is a dark residue that will settle into the microscopic pores of the outer layer of the tooth, known as the tooth enamel. Nicotine is another major contributor to tooth stains because it becomes a yellowish hue when combined with oxygen molecules.
- Bad Breath: Smokers are notorious for having bad breath, also simply called “smoker’s breath.” Smoking cigarettes, in particular, can immediately cause bad breath because smoking particles can linger in the throat and lungs. Chemicals in tobacco products are also known to remain in the mouth, which contribute to bad breath.
- Gum Disease: Smoking is a major risk factor when it comes to gum disease. Gum disease refers to an infection that affects periodontal tissue and the supporting bone structure of your smile. When plaque accumulates and isn’t removed, the gum tissue will become infected and inflamed. Your body will then have a harder time fighting off infection because smoking weakens your immune system. After you’ve developed gum disease, continuing to smoke will also make it harder for your gums to heal.
- Tooth Decay: Cigarette smoking contains 7,000 chemicals, according to the CDC. Not surprisingly, many of these chemicals can break down the enamel, leaving you susceptible to tooth decay. Nicotine also restricts blood flow to the gums and significantly reduces saliva production. Saliva is important for neutralizing enamel-eroding acids that harm your smile.
- Oral Cancer: Nearly 50,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed in the U.S each year, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. A study conducted at the University of California, San Francisco found that more than 8 out of 10 oral cancer patients were smokers. Avoiding tobacco products is one of the easiest ways to decrease the risk of developing oral cancer.
Tips To Quit Tobacco Products
The good news is that you can benefit your smile right now by stopping tobacco use! Even after years of tobacco use, you can still significantly reduce your risk for oral health problems. Eventually, your health risk will diminish to the levels of a nonsmoker after quitting tobacco for a long period of time.
Unfortunately, it can be rather difficult for smokers to kick the habit for good. Some of the best ways to finally end your tobacco use include:
- Toss Any Tobacco Paraphernalia: Completely commit to quitting your tobacco use by throwing out any tobacco paraphernalia. This can include items like ashtrays or lighters. Doing this will help you think about tobacco less.
- Try A New Hobby: For many smokers, the cravings can feel overwhelming initially. We recommend taking up a new hobby to take your mind off of smoking.
- Exercise Regularly: Many former smokers made fitness a priority after quitting tobacco use. The endorphins from exercise can help to replace the dopamine that used to be released while smoking. Being active will also help speed up self-repair after quitting tobacco products.
- Stay hydrated: Be sure to drink plenty of water for the first few weeks upon quitting tobacco use. Water will help speed up the nicotine detox as well as nourish the rest of your body.
- Seek Support: Tell your friends and family members that you are going to quit. Telling others about your goal will help keep you accountable while still providing support from loved ones.
- Measure Your Achievement: Quitting tobacco use altogether can seem impossible for many long-time smokers. Instead of thinking of it this way, celebrate little victories like quitting tobacco for two weeks. This makes the goal of quitting feel more attainable and allows you to celebrate your accomplishments.
Contact Dr. Stuart J. Froum
Whether you’ve been smoking for a few months or several years, we encourage you to stop tobacco use for your health and the sake of your smile. For patients that have concerns regarding their oral health, contact our office.