Common medical questions and answers through blogs and articles

What Does Smoking Do to Teeth?

A cigarette loosely tangling from your mouth, or cinched between your teeth, is a menacing look to be sure.  But, just in case you were wondering, smoking is also a menace to your teeth, besides your general health.

We all know smoking is bad for your health, and, we did not have to read the warning label on the side of the pack to know this fact.  There are public service announcements galore which point to the fact that smoking causes cancer.

Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, and, about 70 of them are known to cause cancer.  The number one risk of smoking cigarettes is lung cancer, but, smoking is known to affect your entire body.  Did you know it can also affect your oral health as well?

Smoking Can Affect Your Teeth

Smoking is very detrimental to your health, and, just as it damages the bones, skin and soft tissues in other parts of your body, it similarly wreaks havoc with the bone, skin and soft tissues in the teeth and mouth, causing oral cancer.

There are a wide variety of oral health issues caused by smoking, among them:

Risk to Teeth:

  • Tooth discoloration;
  • Delayed healing process following tooth extraction, periodontal treatment, or oral surgery;
  • Lower success rate of dental implant procedures; and
  • Increased risk of developing gum disease, a leading cause of tooth loss.

Oral Issues:

  • Bad breath;
  • Inflammation of the salivary gland openings on the roof of the mouth;
  • Increased risk of leukoplakia, white patches found inside the mouth; and
  • Increased risk of developing oral cancer.

That list is formidable isn’t it?

A Little Teeth Discoloration

You must be mindful of other oral issues , as detailed above, and how they could affect oral health.  In fact, minor discoloration of the teeth is nothing compared to gum disease, which may affect the integrity of those pearly whites.

Smoking and Gum Disease

The reason that smoking causes gum disease is because smoking affects the attachment of bone and soft tissue to your teeth.   Smoking interferes with the normal function of gum tissue cells, making tender gums much more susceptible to infections, such as periodontal disease.  Smoking also impairs blood flow to the gums – which in turn may affect wound healing.

Pipe and Cigar Smoking

Other tobacco products, like pipes and cigars, similarly lead to severe oral health problems.  For example, cigar smokers experience similar periodontal disease, tooth loss and alveolar bone loss (bone loss within the jawbone that anchors teeth) at rates equivalent to those of cigarette smokers.  Pipe smokers similarly have a similar risk of tooth loss as do cigarette smokers, and, all smokers, whether the preferred choice is cigarettes, cigars or pipes, will suffer bad breath and stained teeth, but really … those consequences are nothing compared to their risk for oral and pharyngeal (throat) cancers, even if they don’t inhale.

Smokeless Tobacco

If it is too difficult to give up smoking, before you embark on a smokeless tobacco regimen instead, you should be advised of these points:  just like cigars and cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products (chewing tobacco and snuff) contain at least 28 chemicals that have been shown to increase the risk of oral cancer and cancer of the throat and esophagus. Chewing tobacco is especially addictive, as it contains higher levels of nicotine than cigarettes, thus making it harder to quit than cigarettes. Snuff is no better – one can of snuff delivers more nicotine than over 60 cigarettes!

Thus, the addiction factor is certainly present in chewing tobacco and snuff, and, it will indeed wreak havoc on your teeth.  Smokeless tobacco, like its counterparts, can irritate your gum tissue, causing it to recede or pull away from your teeth.  Once the gum recession begins and teeth roots become exposed, tooth sensitivity to hot/cold or other irritants begins, as does the risk of tooth decay.  The tooth decay is exacerbated by the sugars that are often added to enhance the flavor of smokeless tobacco.  A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association showed that chewing tobacco users were four times more likely than nonusers to develop tooth decay.  Lastly, smokeless tobacco typically contains sand and grit which can wear down your teeth.

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