By now, thanks to decades of public service announcements and the mandatory Surgeon General’s warning on the packaging, most people are aware that smoking and using tobacco products has a negative affect on your overall health. The risk of developing lung cancer, breathing problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory conditions increase. However, it may not be as commonly known that smoking and tobacco products are bad for your oral health.
How Does Tobacco Affect My Teeth?
Smoking cigarettes slows down your body’s ability to heal. This means that your tooth enamel may wear down faster. Additionally, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff and unprocessed tobacco leaves (used as cigar wrappers) all contain tiny abrasive particles. These will wear down your teeth over time when chewed.
Smoking and tobacco use also limit the effectiveness of many dental treatments. Because one of the effects of smoking on your mouth include reduced blood flow and increased bacteria and inflammation, healing from dental procedures takes longer. These issues can make it difficult to replace lost teeth using restorative dental procedures.
For example, implants and bridges might not be an option for a tobacco user because your surrounding teeth and jawbone may have weakened from infection or decay and aren’t strong enough to support these procedures. Studies show that due to slow healing and weaker jawbone tissue, the implant failure rate for smokers was almost 16 percent, compared to just 1.4 percent in nonsmokers.
Treating gum disease is harder.
First of all, smokers are twice as likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers. This is partly because smoking stunts your immune system’s ability to fight infection. Therefore, using tobacco can lead to a simple infection becoming something worse like an abscess or even full blown sepsis. Also, smokers that are being treated for gum disease have a harder time coping with the symptoms of gum disease. Smoking also impedes the growth of blood vessels, which means less blood flow to the gum tissues which slows healing after oral surgery.
What about chewing tobacco?
Smokeless tobacco (also known as snuff or chewing tobacco) is a major factor in cancers of the mouth, lip, tongue and pancreas. Like cigarettes, chewing contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals.
Issues caused by smokeless tobacco include:
- Risk for cancer of the voice box, esophagus, colon and bladder due to swallowing toxins in the juice created by chewing.
- Irritation of your gums, which can lead to gum (periodontal) disease.
- Increased risk of tooth decay as sugar is often added to enhance the flavor of chewing tobacco.
- Tooth sensitivity and erosion due to sand and grit from smokeless tobacco wearing down teeth.
What can I do?
If you’re a smoker, you can start by understanding that tobacco dependence is an addiction. All aspects of nicotine addiction, including both the psychological and physiological ones, need to be addressed to break the habit, and it’s not uncommon for smokers to make several attempts at quitting several times before succeeding. If you’re a smoker, work with both your medical doctor and your dentist to find a strategy that can help you quit for good.
Ultimately, the effects of smoking and using tobacco on teeth can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and prevent the positive effects of restorative dentistry treatments. For more information or help restoring your teeth from the destruction caused by tobacco use, schedule with Dr. Harry W. McCool in Lilburn, GA by calling (770) 450-4407 or contact us online today.