The Surgeon General warns us on a daily basis it seems that smoking is bad for our general health. We all know by now the effects that smoking can have on the lungs, causing cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as a number of other diseases and health conditions. Smoking is bad for your teeth, too.
How Does Tobacco Affect My Teeth?
There are several ways in which smoking affects oral health. In general, smoking slows down the healing process in our bodies and this is true for teeth as well. Smoking cigarettes and cigars are not the only products that we need to worry about. Chewing tobacco, snuff and tobacco leaves (used as cigar wrappers) can all damage the tooth enamel as they contain very small particles that are abrasive to teeth. As you smoke or chew these products, an abrasive paste is created from being mixed with saliva. This paste rubs against the teeth and wears them down.
Smokers are not the best candidates for certain dental procedures. Studies show that the failure rate for dental implants for smokers was nearly 16 percent but for non-smokers the failure rate was only 1.4 percent. One of the reasons is that many have weakened jawbones due to bacterial infections in and the surrounding teeth, gums and bone structures. Smokers are also slower to recover from dental procedures as well.
Treating gum disease is harder.
A bigger challenge for dentists and smokers is when gum disease is present and smokers are twice as likely to get gum disease than non-smokers. Since smoking inhibits the body’s ability to fight infection, smokers are prone to gum disease and managing the symptoms more challenging. Furthermore, a simple infection could develop into something more serious such as an abscess or even sepsis. The reason for these issues is that smoking limits the amount of oxygen in the blood that results in slow healing gum tissues.
What about chewing tobacco?
Smokeless tobacco, more popularly known as chewing tobacco, may seem like the lesser of the evils but it too has many potential serious health conditions associated with it, including cancer of the tongue, lip, mouth, and pancreas. Chewing tobacco has at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals just like cigarettes. Here are a few issues that may result from using smokeless tobacco products:
- Erosion of the teeth due to sand and grit in smokeless tobacco products
- Risk of cancer related to colon, bladder, esophagus and the voice box from swallowing toxins
- Gum irritation leading to periodontal disease (gum disease)
- Increased risk for tooth decay. Many of these products have sugar added to enhance the flavor
What can I do?
See your medical doctor and your dentist about quitting smoking. Smoking is an addiction and your medical doctor can help with the physiological as well as the psychological aspects of smoking. You might not be successful on the first attempt at quitting but keep working with your doctor and dentist to find the plan that works for you. For more information about how smoking is bad for your teeth, please contact Dr. Donald J. Alexander in Jacksonville, FL at (904) 901-4302 or schedule online.