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Smoking and Your Oral Health

Waterloo Dentist

Smoking is bad for you. It’s bad for your overall health and it’s bad for your dental health. There isn’t a single benefit that can outweigh the adverse effects of smoking. Because smoking is an action that is performed using your mouth, it causes many issues for oral health.

What sort of problems does smoking cause for oral health?

One of the most common issues developed by smokers is gum disease. In fact, a recent study showed that smokers a four times more likely to develop gum disease than their non-smoking counterparts.

This disease affects the tissues that support your teeth. This includes your gums and ligaments. Over time it causes your teeth to decay because of a persistent infection, and also leads to missing teeth and bone loss. One of the main reasons smokers are more likely to suffer from gum disease than non-smokers is because of the caustic chemicals in cigarettes. When a person’s mouth is continually exposed to harmful chemicals the homeostatic state of their mouth is compromised and they begin to experience a breakdown of the tissues.

In addition to a higher risk of developing gum disease, smokers are also at a much higher risk of developing leukoplakia, which eventually leads to oral cancers like throat cancer and mouth cancer. This condition causes inflammation in the salivary glands and leads to break down of the bones.

If a person smokes they’re also more likely to have a hard time recovering from oral procedures like dental implants, extractions, and periodontal treatments. One of the most painful conditions smokers are prone to is something called a dry socket. This results in nerves and bone being exposed after an extraction and needs to be treated immediately due to the immense pain it causes.

Plaque and tartar also tend to build up faster for smokers. This results in an unattractive smile that is stained and bad breath (on top of what is already the result of smoking). People who smoke can also develop hair tongue, a fungal infection that makes a tongue look hairy. Smokers are also more likely to lose their sense of taste and smell.

How can I improve my dental health if I smoke?

The first step to improving your oral health is to stop smoking. There are a variety of smoking cessation programs out there designed to help smokers kick the habit. Talk with your doctor or health insurance company to learn more. Many of these programs are free or low cost, as they result in a healthier patient in the long run, which decreases the cost required to care for a person.

While it’s important for everyone to visit the dentist twice a year for a cleaning, it’s even more important for a smoker. This is because people who smoke are prone to more rapid changes in their oral health. By getting in twice a year your provider will be able to notice any changes and make a call as to how to go about diagnosing any issues or treating problems.

Oral cancer is one of the biggest things dentists look out for during these exams. It can be marked by changes in the appearance of your tissue and when caught in time has a much better survival rate than when caught later.