SMOKING AND ORAL HEALTH

Smoking is bad. Period.

We don’t just say that because that is the consensus. There are innumerable articles that enumerate the disastrous effect of smoking on general health. Today, we shall discuss in detail, what smoking actually does to your mouth.

HOW DOES SMOKING AFFECT YOUR GUMS?

Tobacco used in any form – cigarettes, pipes, chewable and smokeless tobacco, interferes with your immune response, which essentially means that in the case of infection, the body’s fighting responses are decreased. This applies to the mouth too. Smoking affects the cells in the gum tissue, which result in the de-attachment of the connection between bone and teeth as well as bone and gum tissue. This presents as apparent lengthening of the tooth size (due to recession of the gums), loosening and mobility of the tooth as well as appearance of gaps between teeth. Smoking affects the blood flow to the gums, which is the chief cause of inability to fight off infection. This happens as a protective response to the high heat generated by the smoke. The blood vessels retract deep into the tissues, leaving the surface tissues susceptible. This is also the reason that wound healing is impaired and patients with a smoking history take a much larger recovery time.

DENTAL PROBLEMS DUE TO SMOKING

  • Tooth discolouration and Bad breath (due to nicotine and tar)

  • Increase in plaque and calculus build-up.

  • Increased risk of gum disease, which may lead to tooth mobility and tooth loss ultimately.

  • Development of whitish patches in the mouth which may become malignant.

  • Delayed healing in case of any oral surgical procedure

  • Lower success rate of dental implants

  • Rapid bone loss in the gums.

  • Recession of gum, root caries.

TOBACCO AND CANCER

  • It should be noted here that about 90% of individuals diagnosed with oral cancer of the mouth have some form of tobacco habit. Studies show that smokers have a 6 times higher risk of developing oral cancers than non- smokers. In another study it was noted that 37% who continue smoking after successful cancer treatment relapse, compared to a 6% in non-smokers.

  • Smokeless tobacco is EQUALLY HARMFUL. In fact one snuff of chewing tobacco is equal to smoking about 60 cigarettes, with its significantly higher nicotine content. Additionally smokeless tobacco contain abrasive agents like sand and grit, which can mechanically wear down teeth.

HOW TO STOP USING TOBACCO PRODUCTS

Quitting a smoking or tobacco habit can be extremely hard and almost impossible to do alone. It is essential to seek out a professional, as they will help you get over the habit successfully, without relapsing. Most dental problems improve (or at least do not worsen) quickly once smoking is ceased. In fact according to the Journal of American Dental Association, a study found that white lesions of leukoplakia completely resolved in 97.5% of patients within just 6 weeks of habit cessation!

 

Your healthcare provider as well as dentist can recommend various methods, including nicotine substitutes for you to kick the habit. It is essential for smokers to visit the dentist regularly to maintain their gum and teeth health, as well as counsel against the ill effects of it.

 

In conclusion, tobacco and associated products have a long association with a number of health hazards. In general they deteriorate our health over a period of time which affects our quality of life. Never beginning this habit is the best option, but cessation comes a very close second.