Want to know the single most positive thing adults can do to improve their teeth? If they smoke, the answer is easy and unequivocal: Quit smoking. Today. It’s without a doubt the best thing you can do for your dental health and the beauty of your smile.
You obviously know about smoking’s links to lung cancer and heart disease. This has been commonly known science for some time now. But did you know that smoking can also cause dental disease, including excessive tooth decay and gum disease? In fact, the heat from smoking causes damage to your gums and throat, triggering your gums to develop a protective coating on the older tissue. This protective coating masks the pain you’d otherwise feel. The ironic thing is that people who quit smoking begin to feel this pain for the first time. The damage has always been there — only now you can feel it, front and center.
How Smoking Hurts Teeth
Smoking weakens your immune system — this in turn makes it harder for your body to fight infections, including tooth decay. In smokers, bacteria tend to fester and the risk for gum disease is significantly higher.
When you smoke, you have more bacteria festering in your mouth. This in turn causes gum inflammation. If left untreated, this can lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease. If these diseases wreck enough havoc, you could face tooth loss and tooth crown pain.
“Our study shows that people should stop smoking now if they want to increase their chances of keeping their teeth into old age,” says researcher Philip Preshaw, a clinical lecturer in periodontology at Newcastle University’s School of Dental Sciences in England, in a news release. “Dentists have known for some time that smokers have worse oral and gum health than nonsmokers, but for the first time we have shown that quitting smoking together with routine gum treatment results in healthier gums.”
Smoking also leads to tooth discoloration, tooth decay, and oral infections. In fact, smoking makes it significantly more difficult to heal from oral surgery.
Thinking about teeth whitening to remove stains on your teeth from smoking? Unless you plan on quitting smoking for good, such cosmetic dentistry procedures are pointless in the long run — the stains will only come back again.
Symptoms Smoking May Be Affecting Your Teeth
The signs of damage from smoking are obvious. As dentists, we can always spot a smoker from the minute we look in their mouth. These symptoms can range from mild to severe — even seemingly subtle oral health problems can be the result of smoking. You may experience anything from tooth sensitivity to tooth crown pain to swollen and even bleeding gums.
Keep in mind that many smokers don’t experience bleeding gums due to poor blood circulation caused by smoking. It’s when they quit that they notice their gums start to bleed. Trust your dentist on this — bleeding gums are no reason to stop quitting. This is actually a sign your body is regaining its ability to heal. If you experience bleeding, your dentist can help with gum treatments.
The Benefits of Quitting Smoking
The good news is that quitting smoking greatly reduces your risk of tooth loss, gum disease, and tooth decay. You’ll reduce the wear and tear on your enamel — and you’ll no longer be providing the perfect environment for the bacteria that causes tooth decay, plaque, and gum disease.
The stench of smoke resides in the mouth and throat, causing bad breath. It also dries out your mouth, which creates the perfect environment for odor causing bacteria to flourish. When you quit smoking, your breath will improve. You reduce these bacteria, which can lead to better smelling breath.
It’s no secret that smoking stains the teeth. (Concerns of this may be what led you to this dentistry article in the first place.) Nicotine turns yellowish in color when it comes into contact with oxygen, staining the teeth. Tar also creates a black and brownish discoloration on your teeth. This is eliminated when you quit smoking. If you do have severely stained teeth and quit smoking, we can also do a teeth whitening to restore the color of your teeth.
Quitting also saves your taste buds. The chemicals in smoke actively flatten your taste buds, causing you to lose your sense of taste, or at least dampen it. Unfortunately, these taste buds don’t return. But the sooner you quit, the more taste buds you’ll have left.