By now, because of the aggressive public service announcement campaign and the mandatory Surgeon General’s warning on cigarette packaging, most people know that smoking and using tobacco products has a negative impact on your overall health. Smoking increases your risk of developing lung cancer, breathing problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other conditions. However, it may not be as widely known that smoking and tobacco products are bad for your oral health.
How Does Tobacco Affect My Teeth?
Smoking cigarettes introduces nicotine to your bloodstream which causes your veins to constrict, reducing blood flow and slowing your ability to heal. This means that your tooth enamel wears down faster. Additionally, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff and unprocessed tobacco leaves (used as cigar wrappers) all contain tiny abrasive particles that are damaging to tooth enamel. When this tobacco is chewed and mixes with your saliva, it produces an abrasive paste that wears down your teeth over time.
Smoking and tobacco use can also limit the effectiveness of many dental procedures. The effects of smoking and nicotine on your mouth include reduced blood flow, increased bacteria production and inflammation of tissues. These issues can make it difficult to replace lost teeth using restorative dental procedures such as dental implants and bridges.
Implants and bridges might not be an option for a tobacco user because your surrounding teeth and jawbone tissue may have weakened from decay and bone recession and aren’t strong enough to support these procedures. Research shows that due to slow healing and weaker jawbone tissue, the implant failure rate for smokers was as high as 16 percent, compared to just 1.4 percent on average in nonsmokers.
Treating gum disease is harder.
Smokers are twice as likely to develop gum disease as non-smokers and smoking hinders your immune system’s ability to fight infection. Therefore, using tobacco can allow a simple infection to become something worse like an abscess or even sepsis. Also, smokers diagnosed with gum disease have a harder time coping with its symptoms such as bleeding and tissue recession. Smoking also hampers the growth of blood vessels, which means less blood flow to the gum tissues which slows healing after oral surgery.
What about chewing tobacco?
Smokeless tobacco (also known as snuff or chewing tobacco) is just as dangerous as smoking cigarettes. It is a primary cause of cancers of the mouth, lip, tongue as it contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals.
Issues caused by smokeless tobacco include:
- Risk for cancer of the voice box, esophagus, colon and bladder due to swallowing toxins in the juice created by chewing.
- Irritation of your gums, which can lead to gum (periodontal) disease.
- Increased risk of tooth decay as sugar is often added to enhance the flavor of chewing tobacco.
- Tooth sensitivity and erosion due to sand and grit from smokeless tobacco wearing down teeth.
What can I do?
If you’re a smoker, you can start by recognizing that nicotine dependence is an addiction disorder and both the psychological and physiological aspects of an addiction need to be addressed to break the habit. It is fairly common for smokers to make several unsuccessful attempts at quitting several times before they finally succeed. If you’re a smoker, work with both your medical doctor and your dentist to find a strategy that can help you quit for good.
Ultimately, the effects of smoking and using tobacco on teeth can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and pose a challenge with restorative dentistry. For help restoring your teeth from the destruction caused by tobacco use, schedule with Dr. Upadya of Metropolitan Center for Complete Dentistry by calling (973) 287-3153 or schedule online today.