More than 37 million American adults consider themselves cigarette smokers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over 76 percent of these adults admit to smoking daily. Along with the well-known health risks of smoking, this habit can also cause serious dental issues.
If you or a loved one is a smoker, look at the dental health risks and the ways you can deal with them.
Tooth staining is one of the most outwardly obvious effects of smoking. According to a study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, 28 percent of smokers surveyed reported having tooth discoloration. This is in comparison to 15 percent of non-smokers.
The nicotine that cigarettes contain is, on its own, colorless. But when it combines with oxygen, the nicotine can turn yellow. Along with the nicotine, the tar in tobacco also absorbs into the smoker's teeth. The combination can cause yellow, tan, or brown stains that don't go away with regular brushing.
Quitting smoking stops the stains from continuing to build. But quitting won't remove them. Fortunately, the dentist has several ways to restore your smile to its brightest and whitest. In-office whitening can erase years of smoke stains. If you want a more permanent fix, dental veneers cover the stained teeth. The veneers give you a brand new brilliant white smile.
The dental damage that smoking causes goes well beyond cosmetic issues. Periodontal (gum) disease has multiple risk factors, including poor oral hygiene, genetics, and lifestyle (such as smoking). Gingivitis and serious periodontal disease begin with bacteria. Plaque buildup and hardened tartar can eventually result in gum recession or pocket formation. This gives the bacteria an easy entry into your mouth, causing an infection.
While smoking doesn't cause gum disease, smoking can make it worse. Fighting a gingival infection requires a functional immune system. Smoking can weaken the immune system, making fighting off periodontal infections a challenge.
Along with quitting smoking, you can take steps to reduce the gum disease risk. Visiting the dentist for regular cleanings and check-ups and at-home oral care (brushing at least twice a day for two minutes and flossing after meals) can decrease the severity of periodontal symptoms and help the gums to heal.
More than 49,000 people in the U.S. will have an oral oropharyngeal (mouth and/or throat) cancer diagnosis in the next year, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation. Tobacco use, along with alcohol abuse, is a major oral and throat cancer risk factor.
Oral cancer can affect the lips, gums, tongue, lining of the cheeks, floor of the mouth, or roof of the mouth. This can result in severe dental and mouth pain, difficulty chewing or swallowing, tongue pain, or loose teeth. Along with these uncomfortable symptoms, the disease can also turn deadly if you don't treat it promptly.
The best way to lower the chances of an oral cancer diagnosis is to stop smoking immediately. Visiting the dentist regularly is also a necessity. Early detection may increase the odds of recovery.
Smokers have a higher risk of tooth loss in comparison to nonsmokers. According to researchers at the University of Birmingham, men who smoke are 3.6 times more likely to lose teeth (in comparison to nonsmokers) because of tobacco use. Women who smoke are 2.5 times more likely to lose teeth than those who don't smoke.
Like other risk factors, quitting smoking can decrease the chances of suffering from this dental dilemma. If you do have smoking-related tooth loss, the dentist can help you to choose a replacement option.
Do you need to schedule a preventative dental visit? Contact Family Dentistry of Dunn Avenue for more information.