It's no secret that smoking cigarettes — or using any form of tobacco — is bad for your health. In fact, the effects of smoking can have a negative impact on nearly every part of your body, and your teeth and gums are no exception. Cigarettes and other forms of tobacco can impact your oral health, putting you at risk for serious and even deadly diseases, such as mouth cancer.
Fortunately, with a lot of persistence and support, it’s possible to quit smoking and restore your oral health.
The Consequences of Smoking for Your Oral Health
If you smoke or use other forms of tobacco products, it is important to let your dentist know. Your dentist can watch closely for signs of oral conditions associated with smoking, including:
- Tooth discoloration: Nicotine and tar can penetrate the microscopic pores of your tooth enamel in a short amount of time, resulting in stubborn yellow stains that do not disappear with brushing alone.
- Chronic bad breath: Cigarettes can cause breath to smell poorly. However, many smokers also experience chronic bad breath because of reduced saliva production.
- Gum disease: Smokers are at a greater risk for gum infections due to the alarming number of toxins that enter the mouth through cigarettes. As bacteria in the mouth builds up, the gums become red and inflamed. Untreated, inflammation can lead to serious damage of the gum tissue, tooth loss and even bone deterioration in the jaw. Studies have also shown that smoking weakens the body’s immune system, making it difficult to repair tissue in the mouth and fight infection.
Smoking and Oral Cancer
It’s not just bad breath or tooth loss that smokers need to worry about. People who smoke are at a much greater risk for developing some form of oral cancer compared to non-smokers. Early symptoms of oral cancer include persistent mouth sores or pain, unusual white patches, swelling, numbness, and difficulty chewing or swallowing.
Step Up Your Oral Hygiene
If you smoke, it is critical that you pay attention to your oral hygiene routine. To reduce your risk of dental issues, be sure to:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush for a full two minutes each time.
- Floss once a day to avoid plaque build-up along the gumline.
- Have your tongue and gums checked at every visit to the dentist.
- Visit your dentist at least every six months for regular cleanings and exams.
Finally, the best way to avoid serious complications associated with smoking is to quit for good. When you quit smoking or using other types of tobacco, your body begins to heal and repair itself, and your risk for developing oral diseases decreases.
Your Dentist Can Help
While quitting can be challenging, it is achievable with the right resources and support from family and friends. With the help of your dentist, you can find helpful ways to stop your smoking habit, and they can offer solutions for restoring your oral health.