Most people understand the link between smoking and lung cancer or heart disease, but did you know that smoking can also destroy your smile? In fact, smoking can do a lot more damage to your mouth than merely causing stains and bad breath.
As smoke passes through your teeth and gums, your mouth absorbs the carcinogens in cigarettes, which is just another way for these toxins to gain access to your body.
You should also be aware that a smoker’s smile is prone to gum disease, tooth loss and oral cancer.
Smoking has been estimated to account for about 75 percent of gum disease in adults. Gum disease causes bad breath, swollen and bleeding gums and sensitivity to cold. With gum disease, sometimes even mere chewing is bothersome.
Healthy gums stay snug up around the base of the teeth, providing protection to the sensitive roots. But smoking irritates gum tissue and reduces blood flow, causing the gums to pull away from the teeth. The risk of gum disease increases in relationship to the amount you smoke.
According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those who smoked less than half a pack per day were three times as likely to suffer from gum disease than non-smokers. Worse yet, those who smoked more than a pack and a half per day were at six times the risk!
A missing tooth can really affect a person’s appearance and self-esteem, which are only secondary and tertiary considerations next to the fact that missing teeth can lead to many other serious problems, such as bone loss. Smokers are susceptible to inflammation of the salivary glands and a strange condition known as “Black Hairy Tongue,” which refers to growths on the tongue, making it look hairy and turning it yellow, green, brown or black! Yikes.
And perhaps worst of all, smoking is a primary cause of throat and oral cancers. Oral cancers are particularly life-threatening because they tend to be painless and small, so oral cancer is frequently discovered only in the later stages. The good news is that usually your dentist or doctor can see or feel tissue changes in the earlier stages of oral cancer. By the way, oral cancer screening is a routine part of your Smiles Dental checkups, so please keep up with your regular exams.
In short, smokers tend to have exasperated oral health problems, and the effects of smoking can make it extremely difficult to live a healthy lifestyle. So, if you don’t smoke, please never start! If you are a smoker, consider quitting and start by seeing your dentist to evaluate your oral health. Your dentist can help you decide on a plan to quit smoking and will provide any necessary dental treatment to repair the damage that’s been done.