It’s no secret that tobacco is harmful to our health in general. But did you know that smoking and chewing tobacco can lead to a specific set of dental health issues as well? If you or a loved one smoke, it’s important to make sure that you understand the potential health consequences that you may be facing. We also urge to quit using tobacco in all forms – not just for your dental health, but your overall health and wellbeing.
Effects of Tobacco
Tobacco can affect your oral health by causing issues such as:
- Stained teeth
- Bad breath
- Shrinking gums
- Cracked, bleeding lips
- Bone loss
- Decreased taste and smell
- Poor oral healing
- Gum disease
- Oral cancers
How Does Tobacco Harm?
Tobacco – in cigarette or chewing form – contains a number of substances that have been recognized as cytotoxic, or destructive to our tissues and cells. New studies have suggested that even second-hand smoke can cause oral health issues such as gum disease in individuals who don’t even use tobacco themselves.
Smokers are estimated to have a four times higher risk of developing oral cancers than non-smokers. Additionally, chewing tobacco drastically increases the risk of issues like leukoplakia, or the formation of white patches/sores on the inside of the mouth.
Tobacco and Periodontal Disease
Did you know that roughly half of smoking and tobacco-chewing adults have some form of periodontal disease? In addition to a heightened risk of gum disease, studies show that those who use tobacco may also experience reduced effectiveness in treatment of their gum disease, which in turn heightens the risk of severe complications like infections and tooth loss.
Tobacco use also causes vasoconstricton, or narrowing of the blood vessels. This decreases blood circulation, which can lead to increased recovery times after a smoker experiences issues like oral infections or needs to undergo surgery or other dental procedures to treat gum disease or cosmetically enhance oral appearance.
Reducing Oral Health Risks
The only truly effective way to reduce your chances of a tobacco-related health issue is to quit smoking completely and to stay away from second-hand cigarette smoke. However, we understand that this is much more easily said than done. In the time being, there are some steps that smokers can take to help take close care of their teeth and gums to prevent as many issues as possible.
If you smoke or chew tobacco, be sure to brush and floss at least twice a day and see a dentist regularly for scheduled cleanings.