Most people in the United States are aware of how smoking negatively impacts health. Smoking and tobacco products can lead to lung disease, several cancers, and heart disease. These products and habits are also bad for your oral health, increasing your risk of tooth discoloration, dry mouth, tooth decay, or even tooth loss.
How Tobacco Affects Teeth
Cigarettes slow down your body’s ability to heal, meaning that in addition to slower healing from injuries, your teeth wear down faster. Other tobacco products such as snuff and cigars are abrasive to tooth enamel. When tobacco products are chewed and mixed with saliva, they create an abrasive paste that wears down the teeth. Once enamel is gone, it’s gone.
Smoking and tobacco use also limit the effectiveness of many dental treatments. The effects of smoking on your mouth include reduced blood flow, increased bacteria and inflammation. These issues can make it difficult to replace lost teeth using restorative dental procedures.
For example, implants and bridges might not be an option for a tobacco user because your surrounding teeth and jawbone may have weakened from infection or decay and aren’t strong enough to support these procedures. People who smoke have a much higher rate of implant failure than non-smokers.
Gum Disease Treatment is Less Effective
In addition to being more likely to develop gum disease, people who smoke have a more difficult time fighting infection. Using tobacco can turn a simple infection into an abscess or sepsis. The symptoms associated with gum disease are made even worse with smoking, increasing dry mouth and sensitivity to pain. Since smoking restricts blood vessels, less blood flows to the gums, slowing down transport of compounds that restore gum tissue.
What about chewing tobacco?
Smokeless tobacco, also called chewing tobacco, is a primary cause of cancers of the mouth, lip, tongue and pancreas. Like cigarettes, chewing contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals.
Smokeless tobacco poses several risks to health, including:
- Tooth decay due to added sugar to enhance chewing tobacco flavor
- Irritation of the gums, which may lead to periodontal disease and tooth decay
- Tooth sensitivity and erosion due to abrasive nature of tobacco products
- Higher risk of cancer of voice box, colon, esophagus, and bladder due to swallowing toxins from juice created by chewing
How to Improve Oral Health After Tobacco Use
It is not uncommon for smokers to make several attempts to quit smoking and fail before they find success. If you’re a smoker, know that tobacco and nicotine dependence is an addiction, and there are resources available to help you. Consult with your doctor to develop a plan that works for you.
Your dentist can help manage your oral health both before and after you quit. It’s not too late to quit, and as the body recovers from nicotine addiction, you may be able to benefit from restorative dental treatments.
To learn more about protecting and restoring your oral health after smoking or tobacco use, contact Ridgetop Dental. Our experienced, compassionate team has years of experience helping patients achieve healthy, beautiful smiles at all stages of life. Schedule an appointment online or call our Sterling, VA office at (703) 520-7410.