Smoking has been implicated as a risk factor for, or cause of, most major diseases facing Americans today. One of the most prevalent impacts of tobacco on health is the effect it has on teeth and gums. Tobacco use takes many forms today, each with its own dental health consequences.
Cigarettes and Cigars Affect Oral Health
Smoking tobacco has been linked to oral cancer risk. While not everyone who smokes will get oral cancer, most smokers’ oral health will be adversely affected by the nicotine in cigarettes.
The nicotine in cigarettes limits the production of saliva. Saliva cleans and protects teeth, neutralizes harmful acids from food, and defends against bacteria. This results in an increase in dental plaque, dry mouth and bad breath. Dental plaque build-up creates the environment for faster tooth decay and gum disease.
Nicotine also reduces the blood flow and oxygen delivery needed to keep gums healthy. According to the ADA (American Dental Association), cigarette smoking can lead to a variety of adverse oral effects including gum recession, impaired healing following periodontal treatments, and gum disease. In fact, smokers are more likely to get gum disease than non-smokers. An additional impact of cigarette smoking is yellowing of teeth or teeth staining from the tar, nicotine and other chemicals in the smoke itself.
Chewing Tobacco, Snuff and Smokeless Tobacco Increase Risk
That time honored tradition of spitting in the bullpen is over. Smokeless tobacco use by professional baseball players has been banned, increasing awareness of its dangers. In many ways, chewing tobacco does more harm to oral health than smoking it. More nicotine is ingested by chewing tobacco than by smoking it, thereby amplifying the effects mentioned above.
Placing the tobacco directly on the gums can lead to periodontal (gum) disease, including receding gums, infections and bone loss. Chewers are also at higher risk for cancers of the cheek, gums and lips. Teeth are affected as well. Many chews contain additives that are harmful to teeth. Sugar added to enhance flavor can create tooth decay, while grit added for texture can physically wear down tooth enamel.
Vaping and E-Cigs
From a research standpoint, these are still early days for understanding the impact of vaping. Certainly the smoke produced is different from cigarette smoke. The main consideration for dental health is that vaping is still a nicotine delivery system, which means that all of the warnings about nicotine’s effects on teeth and gums apply.
Smokers Have Dental Options
Of course, all medical professionals advise patients to quit smoking. If you’re not ready to quit just yet, consider increasing your dental hygiene practices including home care (brushing and flossing) and in office care (cleanings and exams). Contact Whitmore dental to get an oral health evaluation and create a plan today.