The Effects of Tobacco Products on Oral Health

***UPDATED: June 30, 2014*** The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are preparing to launch another series of ads in their Tips from Former Smokers campaign that launched in 2012. The new ads, set for disbursement on July 7, features people from all walks of life sharing their stories of how smoking has hurt them, often in ways that are not commonly associated with the habit. The campaign continues to focus on cancer risks and outcomes while emphasizing premature births, HIV complications, and periodontal disease. The stories of Brett, 49 and Felicita, 54, detail how smoking led to the loss of most of their teeth to gum disease and will be featured in Spanish-language ads set to run on national Spanish media channels. According to the CDC, ads from the campaign that ran for 9 weeks earlier this year, generated more than 100,000 additional calls to 1-800-QUIT-NOW, a toll free number to access quit support. For more information about the campaign, visit www.cdc.gov/tips.

On Thursday, November 15, 2012, the American Cancer Society sponsored the 37th annual Great American Smokeout, an event that encourages smokers to give up the deadly habit.  Nearly 44 million Americans smoke cigarettes, contributing to the largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States.  Additionally, there are approximately 13 million cigar smokers and 2 million pipe smokers, not to mention the millions who use smokeless tobacco products.  Adults choosing to partake in this highly addictive and sometimes fatal activity negatively affect their overall health in a number of ways, with tobacco products being linked to heart disease, lung and oral cancers, and a slew of other chronic conditions.  Quitting is extremely difficult, but it has been show to be more successful with assistance and education.  Just in case the threat of a life-ending disease isn’t enough to drive you to quit, perhaps the following information might help.

Many young Americans start smoking because they think it makes them look “cool.” Unfortunately, continued abuse of tobacco products will make you look anything but cool.  Besides the obvious bad breath caused by smoking, did you know that it also discolors your teeth? Using tobacco products increases the plaque and tartar build-up on your teeth, which ultimately can lead to gum disease and tooth loss.  Additionally, smoking causes an increased risk of leukoplakia, or white patches inside the mouth, and contributes to premature wrinkling on the face and hands.   How cool do you think you’d look missing half of your teeth while your remaining “pearly whites” are the color of smog? And it’s not only cigarettes that cause these issues.  Smoking cigars or pipes, or even using snuff or chewing tobacco can lead to the same result.   Many people don’t think about the damage being done on the inside of their bodies, simply because they can’t see it.  The cliché saying “out of sight, out of mind,” definitely applies here.  However the visual effects of smoking will take hold eventually and seeing that in the mirror every day will remind you about your poor choice to use tobacco products.

Regardless of how long you’ve used tobacco products, quitting now will greatly reduce the many health risks associated with the habit.  In fact, studies have shown that just eleven years after quitting, the likelihood of a previous smoker contracting gum disease is not any different than their non-smoking counterparts.  And with developments in the field of cosmetic dentistry, some of the damage created by using tobacco can be easily repaired or restored.  Whitening treatments are available to return the color of your teeth to their former brilliance and crowns, implants, dentures, or bridges are available to replace any teeth you may have lost.  If you’re having a difficult time quitting, talk to your dentist or doctor about resources that may be available to you.

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