Oral Hygiene Basics: How Smoking Can Affect Your Oral Health
Smoking cigarettes and cigars affect many systems and organs in the body, from the lungs to the circulatory system. Regardless of what other good oral hygiene basics you practice, smoking negatively affects your oral health.
Impact of Smoking
There are several ways that smoking negatively affects the teeth, gums, and mouth as a whole.
Increases the risk of gum disease
The periodontal disease infects the gums and hinders the bone structure supporting the teeth. Smoking puts people at greater risk for this disease, which can cause teeth to fall out in extreme cases. Periodontal disease begins when bacteria get underneath the gums and plaque begins to form. If this early gum disease is not treated, severe gum disease starts to develop, where the gums become separated from the teeth and form even larger pockets where bacteria can form and cause infection.
Smoking diminishes the body's natural immune responses, so the body is less able to fight off gum infection and heal the gums after they become infected. This is because smoking causes inflammation in areas of the body that help the immune system. Tar and other harmful chemicals in cigarettes also divert the immune response away from areas of the body that need healing. Using smokeless tobacco, as well as smoking tobacco in any form, can raise your risk of developing periodontal disease.
Increases the risk of oral cancer
Cigarettes contain known poisonous and cancer-causing substances, which increase the risk of many cancers for smokers and those who regularly inhale secondhand tobacco smoke. Oral cancer begins as a sore or growth in the mouth that will not heal and can be deadly if it is not found and treated early. Untreated oral cancer can also spread to nearby organs and lymph nodes, further lowering the survival rate. According to a 2004 study by Zheng et al., people who smoke and drink heavily saw an oral cancer risk 300 times the amount of someone who has never smoked or drank.
Can cause tooth decay
Tooth decay is a somewhat lesser-known oral health issue caused by smoking. Smoking causes tooth decay because it affects saliva production in the mouth, and less saliva leads to a more significant accumulation of bacteria, tartar, and plaque on the teeth and gums. Tooth decay left untreated may lead to cavities, abscesses, or tooth loss.
Can cause tooth discoloration
While tooth discoloration is more of a cosmetic problem than the other issues mentioned, it can impact your self-esteem and mental health and signal more serious issues lingering under the surface of the teeth. The tar and nicotine present in tobacco are absorbed into the pores of the teeth, giving them a yellow or brown appearance over time. The more you smoke, and the longer you smoke, the more discolored your teeth will become.
If you are a smoker, the literature surrounding oral hygiene basics suggests that quitting will positively impact your oral health.
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