By now you probably know that smoking and using tobacco products has a negative impact on your overall health. This is common knowledge these days thanks to public service announcements and the mandatory Surgeon General’s warning on tobacco product packaging. The risk of developing lung cancer, breathing problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other conditions increase when you smoke or use tobacco products. However, it may not be as widely known that smoking and tobacco products are bad for your oral health as well.
How Does Tobacco Affect My Teeth?
Smoking cigarettes causes restricted blood flow which slows down your ability to heal. This means that your teeth wear down faster. Additionally, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff and unprocessed tobacco leaves (used as cigar wrappers) all contain tiny abrasive particles. When chewed and mixed with your saliva, an abrasive paste is formed that wears down teeth over time.
Smoking and tobacco use also limit the effectiveness of many dental treatments and surgeries. As previously stated, the effects of smoking on your mouth include reduced blood flow. However, it also causes increased bacteria production and inflammation of tissues in the mouth. These issues can make it difficult for restorative dental procedures to heal properly.
For example, implants and bridges may not be possible for a tobacco user because your surrounding teeth and jawbone may have weakened from infection or decay and may not be strong enough to support these procedures. Research shows that due to slow healing and weaker jawbone tissue, the implant failure rate for smokers was up to nearly 16 percent, compared to just 1.4 percent in nonsmokers.
Treating gum disease is harder.
First of all, smokers are twice as likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers and smoking hinders your immune system’s ability to fight infection and heal. Therefore, using tobacco can cause a simple infection to develop into something worse like an abscess or even sepsis. Also, smokers that are being treated for gum disease have a harder time coping with the symptoms of gum disease.
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, smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals.
Issues caused by smokeless tobacco include:
- Risk for cancer of the voice box, esophagus, colon and bladder due to swallowing toxins in the juice created by chewing.
- Irritation of your gums, which can lead to gum (periodontal) disease.
- Increased risk of tooth decay as sugar is often added to enhance the flavor of chewing tobacco.
- Tooth sensitivity and erosion due to sand and grit from smokeless tobacco wearing down teeth.
What can I do?
If you’re a smoker, you can start by recognizing that tobacco dependence is an addiction disorder and should be treated as such. All aspects of nicotine addiction, including both the psychological and physiological ones, need to be addressed to effectively break the habit, and it’s not uncommon for smokers to falter in their attempts 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.
Ultimately, the effects of smoking and using tobacco on teeth can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and pose a challenge for potentially helpful restorative dentistry procedures. For more information or help restoring your teeth from the destruction caused by tobacco use, schedule with Dr. Brent Engelberg of AH Smiles by calling (847) 230-9703 or schedule online today.