Most people are now aware that smoking is bad for their health. It can cause many different medical problems and, in some cases, fatal diseases. However, many people don’t realize the damage that smoking does to their mouth, gums, and teeth.
Smoking traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and water pipes – and using smokeless tobacco all affect your oral health.
Smoking can lead to tooth staining, gum disease, tooth loss, and in more severe cases mouth cancer.
Why are my teeth stained?
One of the effects of smoking is staining on the teeth due to the nicotine and tar in the tobacco. It can make your teeth yellow in a very short time, and heavy smokers often complain that their teeth are almost brown after years of smoking.
How will smoking affect my gums and teeth?
Smoking can also lead to gum disease. Gum disease is an infection of the gums that can affect the bone structure that holds teeth in the jaw. People who smoke have less blood vessels in the bone and less ability to fight off the bacteria that leads to gum disease. The gums are further affected because smoking causes a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, so the infected gums don’t heal. Smoking causes people to have more plaque and causes gum disease to progress significantly more quickly than in non-smokers. Gum disease is still the most common cause of tooth loss in adults.
Are there special dental products I can use?
There are special toothpastes for people who smoke. They are sometimes a little more abrasive than ordinary toothpastes, you should use them with care. Your dental team may recommend that you use these toothpastes alternately with your usual toothpaste. There are several ‘whitening’ toothpastes on the market. Although they do not affect the natural color of your teeth, they may be effective at removing staining, and therefore may improve the overall appearance of your teeth.
What about mouthwashes?
People who smoke may find they are more likely to have bad breath than non-smokers. Fresh-breath products like mouthwashes may help to disguise the problem in the short term but will not cure it. We recommend Listerine as it is also antibacterial.
How often should I visit my dentist?
You should visit your dental team regularly, as often as they recommend. It is important that you to see Dr Jenny regularly for a periodic examination so that any concerns can be spotted early
People who smoke are more likely to have stained teeth, and therefore may need appointments more often with the dental hygienist.
What can my dentist do for me?
Dr Jenny will carry out a regular examination to make sure that your teeth and gums and whole mouth are healthy.
Your dental team will also examine your cheeks, tongue, and throat for any signs of other conditions that may need more investigation.
They may also be able to put you in touch with organizations and self-help groups who will have the latest information to help you stop smoking.
Will I need any extra treatment?
Your dentist may also refer you to a periodontist, for extra treatment if the gum disease is progressing. Early intervention is key. Quitting smoking is the best prevention. Dr Jenny and her dental hygienist will be able to advise you on how often you should visit them, although this should usually be every three to six months as a smoker.
Smoking also puts you at risk for many types of cancers cancer.
Most people know that smoking can cause lung and throat cancer, but many people still don’t know that it is one of the main causes of mouth cancers too. Cigarette smoking increases the risk for many types of cancer, including cancers of the lip, oral cavity, and pharynx; esophagus; and larynx (voice box). Every year thousands of people die from mouth cancer brought on by smoking.