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How Does Smoking Affect Your Oral Health?

As we all know, smoking can negatively affect many parts of the body, including the lungs and heart. However, the harmful effects of smoking on a person’s oral health are often forgotten.

What are some oral problems that can affect people who smoke?

● Periodontal disease (gum disease)

● Increased tooth decay

● Delayed healing time after tooth extractions

● Staining of teeth

● Bad taste and breath

● Dry mouth

● Higher risk of oral cancer

How does smoking affect my teeth?

People who smoke often notice their teeth becoming more yellow, with some areas even showing brown or black discolouration. Brushing your teeth twice a day can prevent this staining to a certain degree, however, a professional clean from a dentist will help remove the stains that you cannot remove at home.

Smoking can also increase the prevalence of tooth decay. This is because the nicotine in tobacco reduces the amount of saliva in the mouth, which is usually very important for protecting the teeth against decay. As a result, those who smoke also sometimes complain of having a dry mouth.

Gum disease and smoking

Teeth require healthy gums and surrounding bone to support them. If you smoke, you are up to 3 times more likely to develop gum disease compared to a non smoker. The more cigarettes you smoke, the higher the risk.

Periodontal disease (also known as periodontitis) is the inflammation of the gums surrounding the teeth, as well as the destruction of the supporting bone. This bone loss is irreversible, and can lead to loose teeth, pain and development of infection.

Usually, bleeding gums are a big tell tale sign of periodontitis. However, smoking reduces the amount of blood flow to the gums. As a result, there is often little bleeding and the true extent of the periodontal disease is hidden. Many people who smoke aren’t aware how bad their gum disease really is.

The good news is that quitting smoking can prevent further destruction of your gum and bones. In fact, people who have quit smoking respond to gum disease treatment just as well as
non-smokers do.

Delayed healing and increased complications

After certain dental work, those who smoke are at a higher risk of developing certain complications.

After a tooth has been extracted, patients who smoke may develop something called ‘dry socket’. This means that the tooth socket is not healing properly, which can be very painful.

Ulcers and sores in the mouth can often take a long time to heal. This is because nicotine prevents proper blood flow and also affects the way your immune system is able to heal and fight infections.

Dental implants also have a higher risk of failing in those who smoke.

Oral cancer and smoking

Oral cancer involves areas of the mouth such as the cheeks, palate, tongue, floor of the mouth and lips. People who smoke are at a much higher risk of developing oral cancer.

Therefore, it is extremely important that you regularly visit your dentist for check ups. Not only do they check the state of your teeth during these appointments, but they also screen your mouth for any signs of oral cancer. The earlier it is detected and treated, the higher the chance of survival and a longer life.

What are some signs of oral cancer?

Oral cancer can occur in any area of the mouth mentioned above, but the most common spots are the sides of the tongue and floor of the mouth.

See your dentist immediately if you notice any of the following:

● A persistent ulcer that doesn’t heal within 3 weeks

● A discoloured red or white patch in your mouth

● A swelling in your mouth

How do I quit smoking?

A good place to start would be to see either your doctor or dentist for guidance. You can also call the Quitline number 13 7848 (13 QUIT).

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