Harmful Effects of Tobacco

Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths worldwide. In addition to lung cancer and other respiratory diseases, tobacco use also poses a significant risk to oral health. The harmful effects of tobacco on oral health are well known. In fact, smokers are at a higher risk of developing gum disease, oral cancer, and other dental problems.  

focus of a hand holding a cigarette tobacco effects dentist in Knoxville Tennessee

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gum tissues and bones that support the teeth. Smoking is a big risk factor for gum disease. This is because it weakens the immune system and makes it harder for the body to fight off infections. Smoking also constricts blood vessels, reducing the amount of oxygen and nutrients that reach the gum tissues. This process makes gum tissues more susceptible to infection.

Studies have shown that smokers are two to three times more likely to have gum disease than non-smokers. Smokers with gum disease also tend to have a more severe and rapid progression of the disease. Unfortunately, this can lead to tooth loss and other issues.

Oral Cancer

Tobacco use is the leading cause of oral cancer–a deadly disease affecting lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, and throat. Smokers are at a high risk of oral cancer than non-smokers. Additionally, this risk rises with the amount and duration of tobacco use.

Oral cancer is often asymptomatic in its early stages, and symptoms may not show until the disease has advanced. Symptoms may include a constant sore in the mouth, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and swelling or lumps in the mouth or neck. Therefore, regular dental checkups are crucial for early detection and treatment of oral cancer.

Other Dental Problems

Smoking also contributes to other dental problems, such as bad breath, stained teeth, and slow healing after dental procedures. Tobacco use can also affect the taste and smell of food. This can reduce the pleasure of eating and possibly lead to poor nutrition.

The Benefits of Quitting Tobacco

Quitting tobacco is the best way to prevent its harmful effects on oral health. While quitting can be hard, it is never too late, and its benefits show quickly.

Within 20 minutes of quitting, blood pressure and heart rate start to decrease. In 2 to 12 weeks, circulation improves, and lung function increases. Within 1 to 9 months, coughing and shortness of breath subside. Additionally, within one year, the risk of heart disease is reduced by half compared to a smoker.

The benefits of quitting also extend to oral health. Within two weeks to three months of quitting, circulation improves, and gum tissues begin to heal. Within one–five years, the risk of having gum disease decreases to that of a non-smoker. In 10 years, the risk of oral cancer goes down to that of someone who doesn’t smoke.

Quitting tobacco can be hard. However, it is vital to know that support is available. Your East Tennessee periodontists can also help you in quitting tobacco use and improve your oral health.