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How Tobacco Products Affect Your Teeth

 In General Dentistry

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 15 percent of the U.S. population smokes.  That’s 36 million Americans! Though this number has been on the decline over the years, it still amounts to a large number of the population who are at risk of developing undesired and even dangerous dental issues that are often a result of this habit.

Smoking is harmful to your oral health in many different ways.  For example, just the simple act of smoking a cigarette limits your mouth’s ability to fight off infection.  This is major, as it leaves you defenseless against the bacteria that’s produced from smoking allowing it and plaque to sit and build up.  If that alone isn’t enough to scare you into kicking the habit, here are just a few other ways smoking affects your teeth:

  • Discoloration – This is one of those symptoms that’s most obvious and often associated with smokers – the yellowing or staining of teeth.  Tooth discoloration happens when the chemicals found in tobacco cling to your tooth enamel and build up over time. Sure, teeth whitening treatments can help slow this process but ultimately won’t stop it in the long run.    
  • Bad Breath – We’ve all heard the phrase, “your breath smells like an ashtray.”  And, this stereotype definitely holds true for smokers. This is because particles from cigarettes actually remain in your mouth long after they’re finished, thus causing your breath to take on those nasty characteristics.  Smoking also causes an overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth that leads to horrible breath, and no amount of brushing or rinsing can get rid of the smell, as it’s the result of decay, gum disease and even oral sores.
  • Gum Disease – Smokers are twice as likely to develop gum disease as nonsmokers, and that risk only increases with each and every cigarette smoked.  The bad news here is that gum disease treatments don’t work as well on smokers because of their mouths’ inability to fight off bacteria.  But, if left untreated along with continued smoking, gums can start to pull away from teeth causing the underlying bone structures to weaken, even teeth to fall out.  
  • Delayed Healing – Not only are smokers more at risk of needing things like gum disease treatments, tooth extractions and oral surgeries, they’re bodies also no longer have the ability to make swift recoveries from such procedures and treatments.  More than that, they also have lower success rates when it comes to dental implant procedures. This is all bad news because the more time your mouth spends in a vulnerable state, the more likely you are to develop further complications.  Dentists can only do so much under these circumstances, as it’s ultimately up to the patient to kick the habit for a more hopeful outlook and effective result.
  • Cancer – In the most severe cases, smokers are more at risk of developing oral cancer.  Each year, in the U.S. alone, 50,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer, 80 percent of which are in fact smokers.  Symptoms of this cancer include white or red patches developing in the mouth accompanied by difficulty chewing and swallowing, jaw numbness, and even ear pain.      

The best course of action in any of these instances is to visit your dentist.  They will come up with a treatment plan for you to mitigate any dental issues you have associated with smoking.  Of course, the only way to stave off these resulting issues, among others that can affect other parts of your body, is to quit smoking altogether.  This is the only way to ensure optimal oral and overall health.

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