By now, thanks to public service announcements and the mandatory Surgeon General’s warning on the packaging, most people are aware that smoking and using tobacco products has a negative impact on your overall health.
Smoking and chewing tobacco can increase your risk of developing lung cancer, breathing problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other conditions. However, it is not as widely known that smoking and tobacco products are bad for your oral health.
How Does Tobacco Affect My Teeth?
Smoking cigarettes impedes your body’s natural ability to heal, which causes your tooth enamel to wear down faster. Additionally, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff and unprocessed tobacco leaves (used as cigar wrappers) all contain tiny abrasive particles that can scratch and erode your enamel.
Smoking and tobacco use can also negate the effectiveness of many dental treatments. The negative effects of smoking on your mouth include reduced blood flow, increased bacteria count and inflammation. These issues can make it difficult to replace lost teeth and restore your smile using restorative dental procedures.
For example, dental implants and bridges might not be viable for a longtime tobacco user because the surrounding teeth and jawbone may have weakened from infection or decay and are no longer strong enough to support these procedures. According to research, the implant failure rate for smokers was up to 16 percent, compared to just 1.4 percent in nonsmokers, due to impaired healing and more susceptibility to infection.
Treating gum disease is harder.
Research shows that smokers are twice as likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers. Furthermore, since smoking blunts your immune system’s ability to fight infection, using tobacco products can cause a simple infection to become an abscess or even sepsis. Additionally, smoking also stunts the growth of blood vessels, which means less blood flowing to the gum tissues which slows healing after oral surgery.
What about chewing tobacco?
Smokeless tobacco (also known as snuff or chewing tobacco) is a primary cause of cancers of the mouth, lip, tongue and pancreas. Like cigarettes, chewing contains at least 28 carcinogens — chemicals that can cause cancer. Issues caused by smokeless tobacco include:
- Risk for cancer of the voice box, esophagus, colon and bladder due to swallowing toxins released when chewing tobacco.
- Irritation of your gums, which can lead to gum (periodontal) disease.
- Increased risk of tooth decay due to sugar being added to enhance the flavor of chewing tobacco.
- Tooth sensitivity and erosion due to gritty particles from smokeless tobacco wearing down teeth.
What can I do?
If you’re a smoker, you can start by acknowledging to yourself that tobacco dependence is an addiction disorder. All aspects of nicotine addiction, including both the psychological and physiological ones, need to be treated to break the habit, and it’s not uncommon for smokers to make several attempts at quitting several times before succeeding. If you’re a smoker, collaborate with both your medical doctor and your dentist to find a strategy that can help you quit for good.
In summation, the negative effects of smoking and using tobacco products on teeth can increase risk of tooth decay, gum disease and create difficulties utilizing restorative dentistry. For more information or help restoring your smile from the damage caused by tobacco use, schedule with Dr. Carter Perkins of Perkins Dentistry by calling (352) 440-5827 or schedule online today.