Today is National No Smoking Day in the UK, so there is really no better time to discuss how smoking can affect your mouth, teeth and gums, and why ditching the habit might be the best decision you ever make for your oral health. If you are a smoker, we hope this blog will get you one step closer to quitting, and if you do not smoke- amazing! Still, we encourage you to keep reading, as maybe there is a friend or a family member who could do with hearing some of the things we have to say.
It is common knowledge by this point that smoking is bad for your lungs, but less people are aware of the numerous damaging effects that tobacco consumption has on your mouth! On a purely aesthetic level, the nicotine and tar found in cigarettes can discolour the teeth, leaving unsightly yellow or brown patches on the tooth surface which can be impossible to remove without professional help. If you are a heavy smoker, however, discolouration is the least of your teeth’s problems.
Whenever cigarette smoke is inhaled into the mouth, saliva flow is immediately disrupted- this causes your mouth to dry out significantly, and a dry mouth is exactly what harmful bacteria thrive in. Saliva is actually extremely important in maintaining a healthy mouth, and a lack of it means that bacteria can stick to your teeth and gums with ease. Dry, bacteria filled mouths are a leading cause of a host of oral diseases including gingivitis and periodontal disease, and because of this, smokers are three to six times more likely to develop these diseases.
Bad breath is a common symptom of dry mouth, and a lack of saliva also means that plaque can form far quicker on your teeth, and if not removed daily, this plaque can harden into tartar, a substance that is not only unsightly but can irritate and swell your gums, leading to- you guessed it- gum disease.
Now, let us address the elephant in the room- Cancer. Along with alcohol, tobacco is the largest risk factor for oral cancers. Mouth cancer is largely a lifestyle disease, meaning that the majority of cases but certainly not all, are related to the use of either tobacco or alcohol and worse even a combination use increases the risk by a three fold.
Now, we will run through some statistics: firstly, approximately 90% of mouth cancer sufferers are tobacco users, compared to 87% for lung cancer. Smokers are 6 times more likely than non-smokers to develop mouth cancer which rises to a whopping 50 times if you are a user of chewing tobacco, and studies have shown that cancer recurrences are 30% more common if the patient continues to smoke after the first cancer is treated.
All of this information is not meant to scare you (for the most part) but inform you how much healthier you would be without smoking. Obviously, we believe that the best thing for your oral health would be to quit smoking completely, but we are not blind to the difficulties that come with giving up. Simply halving your daily tobacco intake will reduce the risk of all of these issues, and maintaining a regular hygiene routine will go some way to preventing plaque build up and bad breath.
If you are serious about quitting, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with your GP as there are numerous great quitting aids available on the NHS. If you have any oral health issues, smoking related or otherwise, do not hesitate to book an appointment with us at Wimpole Street Dental Care- just call 020 7935 3323.