The word is out, and it’s unmistakably clear: Smoking is bad for you. While the majority of warnings seem to focus on the link between tobacco use and cancer, dentists have their own reasons for urging patients who light up to quit. Have you ever wondered how smoking affects your teeth?
How Smoking Affects Your Teeth
Smoking can do some serious damage to your teeth, gums, and mouth. If you’re trying to decide whether or not quitting is worth the effort, consider how smoking affects your teeth and the many ways in which it can negatively impact your oral health.
The folks at Colgate know a thing or two about keeping a smile healthy and attractive, and they are quick to point out that smoking leads to nicotine buildup that stains the teeth yellow. Since routine brushing alone isn’t enough to combat this discoloration, smokers who want white teeth must make more frequent visits to their dentist for cleanings. Of course, a better strategy would be to make the switch from smoker to former smoker.
Bad breath makes it hard to create a positive first impression, and as the American Dental Association says, it is a common side effect of smoking. Smoking can also diminish your sense of smell and your ability to taste.
Gum disease, which is also called periodontal disease, is an infection of the gums that is triggered when bacteria linger in the mouth, forming plaque and tarter and infiltrating the areas under the gum line. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to pain and tooth loss. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smokers have double the risk of gum disease when compared to nonsmokers, and the more they smoke, the higher their risk of gum disease is. In fact, the use of any form of tobacco increases your risk of developing gum disease. Why are smokers and other tobacco users so vulnerable? Smoking weakens the immune system, which makes it harder for the body to fight off and destroy the germs lurking in the mouth. Could you have gum disease? Watch out for the following symptoms:
- Gums that are tender, red, swollen, or bleeding
- Painful chewing
- Teeth that are sensitive or loose
- Gums that have receded or pull away from the teeth
- Slow healing
As WebMD explains, smoking also slows the healing process, making it tougher to effectively address any dental dilemmas that develop. It may be more difficult to bounce back from gum disease, and it may take longer to recover from a root canal, tooth extraction, or oral surgery. Smokers also have a lower success rate when undergoing dental implant procedures.
While lung cancer may be the first type of cancer that people associate with smoking, it’s not the only one to which smoking has been linked. Oral cancers include cancers of the lips, tongue, throat, sinuses, cheeks, hard and soft palate, and the floor of the mouth, and they can be deadly if not caught and treated quickly. According to WebMD, smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop oral cancer. Red flags that can indicate the presence of oral cancer include the following:
- Swellings, lumps, or crusty areas on the lips or in the mouth
- Velvety patches that are red, white, or speckled in the mouth
- Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or moving the jaw or tongue
- The sensation of something caught in the throat
- Persistent sores that don’t heal
- A change in the bite
- A change in the fit of dentures
- Ear or throat pain
With the increased potential for stained teeth, bad breath, painful gum disease, possible tooth loss, impaired healing, and oral cancers, smoking is more than a nasty habit; it’s a significant threat to your oral health. If you are a smoker who needs a little more motivation to quit, thinking about how smoking affects your teeth might provide the extra push that you’ve been searching for.
To learn more about what you need to do to protect your smile and your health, schedule an appointment with Wilkinson Dental. Dr. Wilkinson and his team will give you the personalized treatment you deserve using state-of-the-art technology. Schedule your first appointment today by calling 417-708-0556 or requesting an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you!