According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S., accounting for close to 500,000 mortalities each year (1 in 5 total deaths). By now, we all know that smoking is terrible for your health and are generally aware of the negative effects of lighting up. However, there are several effects of smoking on oral health. Research shows that smoking greatly increases users’ risk of:
- Lung cancer: More people die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer; smoking is responsible for 87% of lung cancer deaths.
- 12 other types of cancer: Smoking is a risk factor for cancers of the mouth, kidney, liver and more
- Heart disease: Smoking blocks blood and oxygen from flowing to the heart, which leads to heart disease: the number one cause of death in the U.S.
- Stroke: Smoking blocks blood flow to the brain, triggering a stroke: the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.
Smoking’s Dangerous Effect on Teeth
It may come as no surprise that smoking negatively impacts your mouth and teeth. However, despite the havoc that smoking can wreak on users’ teeth, the negative effects are often overshadowed by the deathly health risks noted above. We want to bring to light the too-often overlooked effects of smoking on oral health — it’s more critical than you might think.
Smoking can lead to the following:
- Oral cancer: Smoking can increase the risk of mouth cancer and tongue cancer, among other cancers
- Stained teeth/tooth discoloration: The nicotine and tar found in tobacco can turn teeth yellow or brown very quickly
- Tooth decay: Smoking not only produces bacteria in your mouth, but also makes it more difficult for your mouth to combat infection. The result: tooth decay which could lead to cavities or tooth loss
- Periodontal (gum) issues and disease: Smoking can cause gum tenderness and redness, bleeding, pain, the receding of the gum line, and the loosening of the teeth.
*Learn more about the periodontal care offered by Madison Family Dental’s in-house periodontist here
- Diminished sense of taste: When the toxic chemicals in cigarettes come into contact with your tongue, they flatten your taste buds, essentially killing them and dulling your sense of taste
- Bad breath: Cigarettes’ chemicals stick to smokers’ teeth, gums, tongue, and cheeks, causing bad breath
According to a studio by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smokers aged 18-64 are four times as likely as non-smokers to have poor dental health and twice as likely as non-smokers to have 3+ oral health issues and to have not visited the dentist in 5+ years.
What About Smokeless Tobacco?
Unfortunately, smokeless tobacco products are not safer than cigarettes. These products contain at least 28 toxic chemicals and have been linked to increased risk of oral cancers. One of the greatest drawbacks of smokeless tobacco is its effect on users’ gums; smokeless tobacco irritates gum tissue, causing it to recede and expose fragile roots beneath it to decay. Also, smokeless tobacco products often contain sugar to improve the taste, as well as sand and grit: components that encourage the formation of bacteria and wear down tooth enamel.
What Smokers Can Do to Reduce Oral Health Risks
Undisputedly, the best way to reduce the negative impact of smoking and smokeless tobacco is to stop using tobacco entirely. However, this is certainly easier said than done for the close to 40 million Americans who smoke cigarettes, many of whom want to quit. That being said, if you are a current smoker looking to take better care of your teeth, short of quitting cigarettes entirely, here is what you can do:
- Brush and floss daily: These steps are a no-brainer, but are especially essential for smokers, who are susceptible to the buildup of calculus (hardened plaque) on and between teeth
- Use mouthwash: Mouthwash can help kill bacteria that breeds when cigarette toxins come in contact with the mouth and teeth
- Visit your dentist regularly, and tell them that you smoke (although they can probably tell already): Dentists can monitor your gums and tongue, looking out for periodontal disease and early signs of cancer.
- Madison Family Dental can also help you quit smoking with our effective program.
We invite you to reach out to Madison Family Dental with any questions regarding smoking’s effect on your oral health, and, if you’re a smoker looking to preserve your teeth, we encourage you to request an appointment with one of our dentists today.
American Lung Association
American Dental Association: Mouth Healthy Blog
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Center for Disease Control and Prevention