The health risks of smoking are well-known nowadays, the TV adverts and warnings on the side of cigarette packets give the message quite clearly.
We all know that smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease, but did you know it has a large impact on your dental health also? You could find that you lose teeth quicker with any potential treatments being compromised also.
So as National No Smoking Day on 9 March now would seem like the logical time to give you more information about the effect that smoking has an your teeth and your dental health.
What effect does smoking have on my teeth?
The bacteria that live in your mouth form a natural biofilm over the surface of your teeth, you remove this biofilm daily when you clean and brush. If the biofilm is left then it can turn into the hardened plaque which gets in between teeth and can be very hard to remove.
Both the film and plaque are far more susceptible to picking up stains than your natural teeth are, this means that smokers typically have teeth which look yellow and brown.
Smoking can also damage and stain dentures if you wear these.
According to the Action on Smoking and Health research report published in January 2012 pipe smokers and smokeless tobacco users are prone to excessive wear on their teeth, which often become flat. The eventual exposure of tooth dentine can lead to deep tobacco staining. Notice the exposure on the lower teeth of the photograph above, See how the staining has picked up particularly on the lower teeth.
What effect does smoking have on my gums?
Your gums are a delicate surrounding the your teeth, they help protect the roots around the teeth where they anchor into the bone. If your gums become inflamed, or start to recede, then the bone around the teeth can also begin to recede. This could ultimately result in tooth loss.
It has been estimated that smokers have between a five to 20 times higher chance of developing periodontal disease, and with that, any treatment of periodontal (gum) disease is compromised in anyone that smokes.
You are more likely to contract gum disease if you smoke and if you do it is harder to treat if you do not stop smoking.
What effect does smoking have on my mouth and throat?
Tobacco, whichever way it is consumed whether it be smoked in a pipe, cigar or cigarette or even chewed can cause halitosis. And if you choose to smoke stronger tobacco this effect can be heightened due to the concentration of sulphur which produces the bad breath.
Smokers have a tendency to suck mint sweets to overcome this effect, these in themselves can then lead to dental caries and dental erosion due to the large quantities of sugar and citric acid contained in them.
The link between smoking and cancer is well documented, some smokers believe that if they don’t inhale the smoke fully then they stand less chance of developing cancer. Unfortunately this is not true, you stand as much chance of developing mouth cancer whether you inhale or not.
What effect of smoking have on wound healing?
Through various research studies done smoking has been found to impair healing of wounds (1,2,3).
Smokers have decreased levels of salivary and serum immunoglobulin which affects wound healing in the oral cavity and the mouth’s ability to clear pathogens. They also have decreased blood oxygenation leading to decreased oxygen delivery to the tissues which also impairs healing following oral surgery.
The loss of the blood clot that follows the removal of teeth (referred to as dry sockets or localised osteitis) occurs four times more frequently in smokers than in non-smokers.
There is also evidence which suggests that smoking inhibits healing through the effects of decreased oxygenation in the blood and tissues, and constriction of blood vessels.
So even is you have a minor mouth injury, such as an ulcer, then smoking can have an effect here also.
The Dental Centre London are supporting people quitting
To help you overcome nicotine cravings, we recommend following the “Four Ds”, aimed at reducing the urge to smoke:
- Delay: Don’t act on the urge to smoke by opening a pack or lighting a cigarette because after a few minutes this urge will reduce.
- Deep Breaths: Take three deep, slow breaths in and out.
- Drink water: Sip it slowly and enjoy the health benefits.
- Do something else: Take your mind off smoking by doing some exercise, listening to music or going for a walk.
iStop Smoking Today have also produced a helpful video with a 10 step proven plan to quitting smoking. The plan involves:
- Step #1: Make a list of reasons.
- Step #2: Watch your money grow.
- Step #3: Set a date.
- Step #4: Make your list of substitutes.
- Step #5: Have those conversations.
- Step #6: Reach Out.
- Step #7: Start new activities.
- Step #8: Shop.
- Step #9: Wash and purge.
- Step #10: Stop Smoking Today!