It’s no secret that smoking is a bad habit that has long-lasting, sometimes fatal, consequences. In fact, cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States alone. That’s about 1,300 deaths every day! Smoking takes an average of 10 years off a person’s life, never mind the extraordinary cost of feeding the habit and taking care of any associated medical bills. Many people know all of this, but what is lesser known is the effect smoking can have on your mouth. Here’s a look at seven problems that smoking can cause for the health of your mouth, according to the Oral Health Foundation.
Discoloration of Teeth
The nicotine and tar in tobacco products can turn your teeth yellow in a relatively short amount of time. After years of heavy smoking, your teeth can turn almost brown. While this may be embarrassing for some, it’s the least of concerns.
Gum disease and tooth loss
Smokers are more likely to suffer from gum disease because of the affects their habit has on the way your teeth connect to the gums and bone in the jaw. The tissues in the gums becomes very vulnerable to infection, ultimately leading to bone loss in the jaw and disintegration of the bone that holds your teeth in place. This obviously leads to tooth loss.
Tooth decay and cavities are caused by plaque build-up on the teeth. Guess what? Smoking actually increases the bacteria that causes plaque. That same plaque can also affect tissues that support the roots of the teeth below the gum, weakening the bone supporting the tooth.
When plaque stays on the teeth for too long, it hardens and forms tartar, a “scaly” like substance. Tartar can be responsible for receding gums and the development of gum disease. And do you know what can increase your risk for tartar? That’s right, SMOKING!
Each cigarette contains thousands of chemicals. When these chemicals enter the mouth, they transform your saliva into a deadly liquid that damages cells in the mouth, sometimes turning the cancerous. Smoking is actually responsible for two in every three mouth cancer cases.
Cigarettes leave smoke particles in the mouth, throat and lungs for a much longer duration than it takes to actually smoke a cigarette. So even if you haven’t smoked in hours, your breath can still reek. And it doesn’t take years for this effect to take place. It’s almost immediate. Yuck.
If you smoke regularly, eventually you could develop white or grey patches on the tongue, cheek, or floor of the mouth. This is known as leukoplakia, and it happens because of the constant irritation of the soft tissues inside the mouth due to smoking.
The best way to avoid these issues, or put a stop to those that have already started, is to quit smoking immediately. But we understand that that’s much easier said than done. If you are a smoker, you should try to follow these three basic rules to try to protect your oral health: brush your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time of the day, cut down on sugary foods and drinks, and visit your dentist regularly. If you notice any changes inside your mouth, contact your dentist immediately. And don’t be afraid to talk to your dentist about quitting. There is a good chance they can help with smoking cessation advice. We understand that this is a very difficult process. But for your oral health, your overall health, please consider quitting today.