What You Don’t Want To Read, But Need To See, About Smoking And Your Mouth
The American Dental Association posted a recent video that many won’t want to see, but must—the negative health issues (including fatal oral health complications) that smoking can produce.
The ADA’s video mixes vital facts with gripping visuals to amplify our understanding of the dangers of smoking in the only format many of us are impressed by anymore—video.
The effects of smoking on your oral health goes beyond yellowing of your smile; it causes serious complications, including the very real possibility of oral cancers.
Oral cancer can be aggressive and spread quickly due to the number of blood vessels in your head and neck along with the proximity to your lymph nodes. And while the use of tobacco has been on the decline in the last 20 years, approximately 15% of all Americans still smoke.
Smoking’s effect on the mouth
For many of us, the first thing we notice when someone smokes is the yellow tint to their teeth. The yellow “cooling” is caused by chemicals found in cigarettes that stain the enamel of the teeth. Enamel is one of the hardest substances in the body; however, once it is damaged or eroded, there is no bringing it back.
Infected and receding gums are another sign of a smoker. Smokers are twice as likely to suffer from gum disease as nonsmokers. When the gums are damaged, they can pull away from the teeth and cause the bones underneath to deteriorate. And once the bones break down, it causes instability in the teeth and can cause them to become loose and fall out. This is why many smokers are lacking at least one tooth.
Finally, smoker’s breath is another adverse effect of smoking that virtually all of us are familiar with. Particles from the cigarette are transferred to the mouth where they remain long after you put out the cigarette. These particles can dry out your mouth, which causes bacteria to multiply. The common lack of salvia among smokers spurs this bacteria to attach to the teeth and gum line, too, which is how periodontal diseases are caused.
The most severe complication that can occur due to smoking is oral cancer. It is estimated 80% of those diagnosed with oral cancer are also smokers. Early symptoms of include swelling or lumps around your mouth, red or white lesions in your mouth, and numbness and trouble moving your jaw when talking or eating. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important you seek medical care immediately.
Electronic cigarettes and smokeless tobacco
Even though you aren’t “smoking it,” smokeless tobacco can still cause significant oral health problems. Just like cigarette smokers, those who use smokeless tobacco are still plagued with bad breath, teeth discoloration and a greater risk of developing periodontal diseases. In fact, smokeless tobacco can increase the risk of periodontal disease even over the rates seen in cigarette smokers. Those who use smokeless tobacco need to visit their dentist more frequently, since oral lesions and other complications can develop quickly and become serious if left unchecked.
Electronic cigarettes are another popular option for people who want to still have the feeling of smoking but—supposedly—without the same concoction of chemicals, and sometimes without the nicotine. These devices have received quite a bit of attention as health professionals determine if they are harmful.
And while these products do have the potential to reduce tobacco use, it is important to remember that no product you inhale is guaranteed safe. Using e-cigarettes can still bring your mouth into contact with nicotine. This can reduce blood flow to the mouth and cause tissues to lose oxygen and nutrients. And when blood vessels contract, it can cause gum line recession and all the other symptoms of chronic cigarette smoking. E-cigarette use can also lead to dry mouth, which allows bad bacteria to multiply and result in cavities or other infections.
If you choose to use e-cigarettes to transition away from smoking, it is important you tell your dentist and continue to go to your regular appointments. Your dentist will be able to spot signs of periodontal disease.
Any time you are inhaling a product—tobacco laced or not—there is the potential for harm to the mouth as well as the throat and lungs. If you are a smoker, it’s important to let your dentist know what type of product you consume so they can screen you more frequently for cancer risks and oral health diseases.