Smoking leads to dental problems, including:

• Bad breath
• Tooth discolouration
• Inflammation of the salivary gland openings on the roof of the mouth
• Increased build-up of plaque and tartar on the teeth
• Increased loss of bone within the jaw
• Increased risk of leukoplakia – white patches inside the mouth
• Increased risk of developing gum disease, a leading cause of tooth loss
• Delayed healing process following tooth extraction, periodontal treatment, or oral surgery
• Lower success rate of dental implant procedures
• Increased risk of developing oral cancer

The most obvious effect of smoking is the staining and discolouration of teeth, caused by the nicotine and tar in cigarettes. But this is just the aesthetic tip of the smoking iceberg.

Smoking has also been linked to a decrease of blood flow to the teeth and gums, bone shrinkage, teeth loss, and an inhibiting of the production of the right kind of saliva, a serious problem given how crucial a role it plays in protecting your teeth from decay.

By far the most dramatic effect of prolonged tobacco use however is oral cancer, which is 9 times likely to occur in smokers than non-smokers.

If a person also drinks a lot of alcohol, then the risk of developing cancer of mouth, throat, tongue, lips and salivary glands is even further increased.

How Does Smoking Lead to Gum Disease?

Smoking and other tobacco products can lead to gum disease by affecting the attachment of bone and soft tissue to your teeth. More specifically, it appears that smoking interferes with the normal function of gum tissue cells. This interference makes smokers more susceptible to infections, such as periodontal disease, and also seems to impair blood flow to the gums – which may affect wound healing.

Kick the Tobacco Habit

Regardless of how long you have used tobacco products, quitting now can greatly reduce serious risks to your health. Eleven years after quitting, former smokers’ likelihood of having periodontal (gum) disease was not significantly different from people who never smoked.

One study found that smokers who reduced their smoking habit to less than half a pack a day had only three times the risk of developing gum disease compared with non-smokers, which was significantly lower than the six times higher risk seen in those who smoked more than a pack and a half per day. Another study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that the mouth lesion leukoplakia completely resolved within 6 weeks of quitting in 97.5% of patients who used smokeless tobacco products.

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Some statistics from the American Cancer Society present some other sobering reasons to quit smoking. They state that:

• About 90% of people with cancer of the mouth, lips, tongue, and throat use tobacco, and the risk of developing these cancers increases with the amount smoked or chewed and the duration of the habit. Smokers are six times more likely than non-smokers to develop these cancers.

• About 37% of patients who persist in smoking after apparent cure of their cancer will develop second cancers of the mouth, lips, tongue, and throat, compared with only 6% of those who stop smoking.

How Can I Quit Tobacco?

To stop using tobacco, your dentist or doctor may be able to help you calm nicotine cravings with medications, such as nicotine gum and patches. Some of these products can be purchased over the counter; others require a prescription. For more information on quitting click here alternatively, please do not hesitate to contact DentalCareXtra.