Aside from the well-know increased risk of oral cancer, smoking makes maintaining good oral health a steep uphill battle in a number of ways. From unpleasant tastes, smells, and unsightliness to more serious mouth disorders, here is an overview of how lighting up can darken an otherwise bright smile, literally and figuratively.
Some of the more obvious adverse effect of smoking include staining of the teeth (the smoke gives them a yellowish or brownish tinge) and bad breath (both from the smoke smell itself and secondary factors). Smoke contains a mixture of nasty chemicals and tar that sticks the teeth, discoloring them with a brown film that stains the enamel. As for bad breath, smoke odor is part of it, the combustion creates all kinds of chemicals that are odorous, and inhalation of hot smoke parches the mouth and makes it harder for your body to be able to keep bacteria in check with the normal defenses like saliva.
Periodontal disease is more common in smokers, as is increased plaque and tartar build-up, and leukoplakia (patches of abnormal tissue). Nicotine constricts blood vessels which makes it harder for your tissue to get the blood flow it needs to stay nourished for optimal performance, while the smoke itself is an irritant that can trigger inflammation. Plaque and tartar can easily accumulate in higher amounts in a smoker (compared to a non-smoker) because of the inflammatory effect smoking can have on the salivary glads that normally help wash some of the plaque away and otherwise regulate the mouth environment. The smokey tar-containg film responsible for discoloring teeth adds another layer to the plaque and is not easily removed. As a chronic irritant, studies showing tobacco’s connection to leukoplakia is not surprising.
Bone loss is another effect of smoking. Smoke damages cells as it passes through your mouth and impairs your gums’ ability to function properly, to heal, and to do the job of protecting your teeth and underlying bone. The bone helps hold teeth in place, so bone loss can lead to tooth loss.
And don’t forget the tastebuds! Smoking changes their shape and flattens the them, dulling the flavors of foods and creating a reduced potential for enjoyment.
Aside from all this, there is oral cancer – probably worth an entire blog post of it’s own at some point – but even without considering that factor, there are more than enough ill-effects on oral health to inspire quitting permanently and leaving all that unpleasantness behind. The damage smoking does the whole of the body, heart disease, lung disease, cancers… quitting, though it may not prove easy, is an obvious necessity if you want to maintain a high quality of life. Mall of Georgia Dentistry is committed to helping you achieve the good oral health that goes hand-in-hand with a great life. Please feel free to talk to us about anything that may be a special concern of yours. Along with encouraging you to quit, Dr. Vancil may have specific treatment recommendations that can help improve your mouth health in the meantime.
If you’re a smoker but not planning to quit yet, pay extra special attention to the care of your mouth with healthy hygiene habits and proper dental care. And if you are trying to quit- good for you and keep up the good work!