You probably know how bad smoking tobacco is for your health. But do you realize what tobacco is doing for your oral health, specifically dental care and gum disease?
Not only does tobacco make your teeth yellow and cause gum disease, but it can even lead to tooth loss and oral cancer. It increases and buildup of plaque and tartar as well as your risk for cavities. It even diminishes your sense of taste and smell so food doesn’t taste as good, life doesn’t smell quite as sweet.
Here’s how smoking affects your teeth and gums, and why quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for dental health.
Smoking Increases Plaque & Tartar
Chemicals in cigarettes interfere with saliva production, a natural cleansing mechanism of the mouth. Because of dry mouth, smoking can lead to an excess buildup of plaque, tartar and the bacteria that causes gum disease. If not removed, plaque builds up into tartar, which requires a professional cleaning from your dentist to remove.
Smoking Weakens the Immune System & Increases Risk of Gum Disease
According to the American Dental Association (ADA) Mouth Healthy site, smoking weakens your immune system. This includes a number of side effects, including a hindered ability to recover from surgery.
That’s why smoking has a highly significant risk of gum disease. It can cause inflammation of the tooth, which can affect bone and other supporting tissue in your jaw bone. Smokers not only have a higher risk of gum disease, but an increased risk of tooth loss as a result. Many smokers who don’t kick the habit must get implant crowns to replace missing teeth lost to gum disease and other decay.
Diminished Results of Teeth Whitening & Other Cosmetic Dentistry
In addition to increasing the risk of tooth decay, smoking also can diminish the progress of cosmetic dentistry like teeth whitening. Many smokers choose teeth whitening to remove tobacco stains and other discoloration, but unfortunately the results are usually not as impressive.
Gum recession can also make implant crowns, dental crowns and other restorative dental care more challenging.
Want to Quit? There’s Help Available
Fortunately, quitting smoking greatly reduces many of these health effects —the sooner the better! It’s not easy, but you can do it. Take it one day at a time. If you need help, there are a number of resources available.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) lists 5 steps to quit smoking:
- Set a date to quit.
- Seek support from family, friends, health professionals like your doctor & family dentist.
- Find ways to distract yourself from the urge to smoke (chew gum, knit, exercise, keep a stress ball).
- Make use of medications (this includes nicotine gum, smoking cessation aids like Chantix, etc.)
- Be prepared for setbacks, relapse and other obstacles.
You can also download the CDC’s app for quitting smoking. Interact with other smokers who are quitting or have quit on social media. Talk to an expert at a quit line. Call the National Cancer Institute Quitline at 1-877-44U-QUIT (1-877-448-7848) from Friday 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. or find your state’s quit line by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
You can also chat with a counselor to help you quit smoking at LiveHelp, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Eastern time.