How Smoking and Tobacco Use Affects Your Oral Health

Thanks to an aggressive campaign of public service announcements and the mandatory Surgeon General’s warning on packs of cigarettes, most Americans are now aware that smoking and using tobacco products has a negative impact on your overall health.  The increased risk of developing lung cancer, breathing problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other conditions are well documented and supported by much research.

However, it is not as widely known that smoking and tobacco products are specifically bad for the health of your mouth and teeth. The caring and dedicated staff at Today’s Dentistry in Knoxville, TN want you to properly educated on the risks of tobacco use to your oral health.

How Does Tobacco Affect My Teeth?

Smoking cigarettes impedes your natural ability to heal, causing your teeth to wear down faster. Additionally, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff and unprocessed tobacco leaves (used as cigar wrappers) all contain tiny abrasive particles that are damaging to your tooth enamel.

Smoking and tobacco use also increases the risk of failure for many dental treatments because the effects of smoking on your mouth include reduced blood flow, increased bacteria and inflammation. These issues can make healing from root canals, dental implants and other dental surgeries more difficult or even impossible.

For example, implants and bridges might not be possible for a longtime tobacco user because your surrounding teeth and jawbone may have weakened from infection or decay and aren’t strong enough to support these procedures. According to research, the rate of failure for implants for smokers was almost 16 percent, compared to only 1.4 percent in nonsmokers. This is due to slower healing and more susceptibility to infection.

Treating gum disease is Harder in Smokers

Medical research shows that smokers are twice as likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers. Also,  because smoking hinders your immune system’s natural ability to fight infection, using tobacco products can cause a simple infection to become an abscess or even sepsis. Additionally, smoking also impedes the growth of blood vessels, which means less blood flow to the gum tissues, slowing healing after oral surgery.

What about chewing tobacco?

Smokeless tobacco (also known as snuff or chewing tobacco) is a primary culprit in causing cancers of the mouth, lips, tongue and pancreas. Like cigarettes, snuff contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals and can cause issues including:

  • Increased risk of cancer of the voice box, esophagus, colon and bladder due to swallowing toxins in the juices created by chewing tobacco.
  • Irritation of your gum tissue, which can lead to gum (periodontal) disease.
  • Increased risk of tooth decay since sugar is often added to enhance the flavor of chewing tobacco.
  • Tooth sensitivity and erosion of enamel due to sand and grit from smokeless tobacco wearing down tooth enamel.

What can I do?

If you’re a smoker, you can begin by recognizing that tobacco dependence is an addiction disorder and must be treated as such. All aspects of nicotine addiction, both the psychological and physiological ones, need to be treated in order for you to break the habit. Smokers may need to make multiple attempts at quitting before they finally succeed but you don’t need to do it alone. If you’re a smoker, discuss your options for quitting with both your medical doctor and your dentist so they can help you come up with a plan to help you quit for good.

To sum up: the effects of smoking and using tobacco products on teeth increase the risks of tooth decay, gum disease and create difficulties utilizing restorative dentistry. For more information or help restoring your smile from the damage caused by tobacco use, schedule with Dr. Pamela Cain or Dr. Robert Cain of Today’s Dentistry of Knoxville, TN by calling (252) 507-0373 or schedule online today.