Do you see pearly whites every time a smoker smiled? Or fresh minty breath from their mouth when they talk? Probably not. This is because chronic smoking has affected their oral health and produced harmful effects like tooth decay, staining, and halitosis. In extreme cases, smoking can even lead to oral cancer.
Let us go through some harmful effects of smoking on our oral health, and how you can quit the habit. It is essential to know the perils of tobacco so that you can understand the need to quit right away. (1)
How does smoking affect your mouth?
Tobacco is a significant enemy of the mouth. It has an adverse effect on all parts of the oral cavity – the teeth, tongue, palate, gums, and mucosa.
A smoker’s breath is awful. And unfortunately, that is the least severe oral problem. The cigarettes contain a mixture of gases, nicotine, and tobacco. All this releases a foul smell which stays in the mouth long after you have smoked.
Though tobacco and its derivatives are not direct causes of tooth decay, it will compound the effects of acid in your mouth. Smoking does not directly cause caries, but it will accelerate the decay process.
The decay is more pronounced because smoking affects your saliva levels, leading to xerostomia. (2)
Tobacco is a strong staining agent. Just like tea, coffee, and wine, tobacco stains your teeth. This is the reason smokers’ teeth appear brownish or a dull yellow. (3)
Gingival and periodontal diseases
Smoking has a very harmful effect on your gums. Over time, a smoker’s gums become dark brown and begin to recede. The accumulation of plaque around the gums increases and instances of bleeding gums are on the rise.
The gingivitis progresses to periodontitis as the teeth become loose in their socket and eventually the damage reaches your bone. The bacteria penetrate deep into the gums, forming pockets and weakening your bones.
The gums become tender on touch, and any mild stimuli will irritate them.
The pink mucous lining of the mouth becomes white due to smoking. You develop irregular white patches, which are rough in texture and are non-scrapable.
These patches could be smoking-induced keratitis or precancerous lesions like leukoplakia.
Smoking reduces the blood flow to the gums, and thus delays healing. If you have any gingival inflammation or an ulcer, it will not heal as fast as it ideally would.
Failure of prosthesis
Smokers who get implants or bridges stand at the risk of failure of the prosthesis. Implant procedures are surgery oriented, which involve a titanium post insertion into the jaw bone.
In smokers, this step is more inclined to be a failure due to bone weakness.
The most threatening condition that a smoker can develop is oral cancer. Nicotine and tobacco are carcinogenic agents, which means they can cause cancer.
Cancer can be of any part of your mouth- the mucosa, tongue and even palate. Smoking also puts you at the threat of cancer of the larynx, pharynx or oesophagus.
When it is not the direct cause of cancer, smoking can be one of the risk factors for developing a malignancy.
Stopping the habit – Where you can start?
Giving up smoking is not an easy process, to say the least. It takes a ton of mental resolve, lifestyle changes, and a positive attitude.
But you have to start somewhere to get there. It could probably be an alarming conversation with your dentist that will inspire you to quit. Dental offices play a considerable role in tobacco cessation counselling.
If you are someone who visits the dentist more than the physician, you are more likely to have a good rapport with your dentist. This could help him or her to explain the hazards of smoking and why you should quit before it is too late.
The dentist is one of the doctors who has a background of your habit, medical history and details about any other illnesses that you may have had in the past. With this information, he or she can guide you about the therapeutic changes you need to quit the habit.
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) enlist five critical steps to quitting smoking. You can work around these to suit your life and build a firm resolve to kick the butt.
- Set a date to quit- There is a stark difference between talking about quitting, and actually taking the first step towards it. Set a date when you are going to stop smoking. Do everything possible to stick to it. Reduce the frequency of your smoking before you quit altogether. This could help you cope with the significant withdrawal symptoms.
- Ask for help- You can turn to family, friends, your doctor, dentist, therapist, etc. to seek mental support for this. The medical experts can advise you on ways that you can cope with your body’s demands when you quit smoking. Your family will engage you in activities or give you the pep talk when it is most needed.
- Use behavioral distraction aids when you get the urge to smoke. You can also practice Nicotine Replacement Therapy or tobacco counseling. (4)
- Your doctor will prescribe some medication that will help you quit. Use these medicines as per the prescription, and avoid skipping doses.
About taking care of your oral health as you quit, your dentist will advise you dental treatments for the conditions that you develop due to the habit. You should get scaling done to clean your gums of the bacteria and plaque. If your gingiva has become markedly brown, you can also get a de-pigmentation procedure.
Cleaning also rids you of the stained teeth. However, remember that all the stains may not disappear in the first sitting. Some intrinsic stains will remain despite cleaning.
For any decayed teeth, your doctor will perform restorative treatment.
Your breath will take care of itself as you quit smoking. You can use mouthwash and practice disciplined oral hygiene in the meanwhile.
That’s it on kicking the butt
There are no health benefits of smoking. It is a habit that slowly destroys all your systems one after another. Apart from the plenty of oral problems that you face, your overall health will go for a toss if you don’t stop the habit. Resolve to quit now, one puff at a time!