The Impact of Smoking on Your Smile and Oral Health
Smoking is a leading cause of both cancer and heart disease, and the more than 36 million Americans who still smoke compromise their oral health, as well. While the potential health impacts on hearts and lungs garner most of the public’s attention with regard to smoking, the potential impact to teeth, gums and the mouth in general are equally significant. When compared to non-smokers, smokers have a four-times greater risk of developing gum disease and are twice as likely to suffer tooth loss. The nicotine in smoke also inhibits the production of saliva, which in turn allows for a greater buildup of bacteria that can cause tooth decay. Smokers are at a much greater risk of getting various forms of oral cancer, and are more prone to mouth inflammations and infections. Smokers also have a much harder time recovering from dental procedures, and are more likely to develop dry socket—a painful condition caused by bone and nerve exposure—after tooth extractions.
The Vanity Implications of Smoking and Teeth
If the health impacts of smoking don’t scare you, then maybe its affects on your appearance will. Staining of the enamel is the most noticeable impact of a smoker’s smile, but smoking can also elevate plaque and tartar buildup, further discoloring that smile. Smoker’s breath may be bad on its own, but the smoking-induced increase in bacteria levels makes smokers more prone to halitosis. Smokers are also at a much greater risk of getting a condition known as “black hairy tongue,” which causes the growth of hair-like projections and changes the tongue’s pigment to black, or sometimes brown, green and yellow.
Dental Tips for Smokers
Quitting, by far, is the most effective means for improving oral health and restoring the shine of a smoker’s teeth. But those smokers who can’t, or will not, quit the habit, should make a concerted effort to practice dental hygiene and health measures above and beyond that of non-smokers. In particular, smokers should do the following:
- Increase the frequency of dental check-ups and professional cleanings.
- Brush, floss and use mouthwash at least twice a day, and more often, if possible.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and prevent dry mouth.
- Use a tongue scraper regularly to reduce the buildup of bacteria and yeast on your tongue.
- Perform oral-health inspections on a regular basis, in which you carefully examine the mouth for sores, lesions, swellings or unusual lumps, and monitor the condition of the gum line.
- Schedule a dental appointment if any sores, lesions, bleeding, swelling or other anomalies in the mouth persist for more than two weeks.
Smokers who do manage to quit generally notice an improvement in their oral health. Studies on long-term smokers with gum disease have proven that those who quit often see a decline in their symptoms. Additionally, those who quit have an easier time removing stains and keeping teeth bright.
If you or a loved one is a smoker who lives on Marco Island or surrounding southwest Florida area, contact our office today at 239-394-1004, to see how we can come up with a dental plan to help stave off the oral impacts of smoking and keep your smile bright. Of course, with more than 75 years of combined dental expertise, the dentists and dental assistants at Island Tower Dentistry have the experience, knowledge and state-of-the-art equipment to address all of your dental needs.