The majority of individuals are aware that smoking has an impact on their health and it causes diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cardiovascular disease, and lung cancer. The fact that smoking can harm the mouth, gums, and teeth and cause oral cancer is still unknown to a lot of individuals.
Smoking exposes your teeth to nicotine and tar that stains teeth and the immunosuppressant effects of smoking may contribute to enhanced susceptibility to gum disease(Gingivitis/Periodontitis).
How does smoking damage your teeth?
The most common oral problems affecting people who smoke are:
· Red, swollen, tender, bleeding gums(Gingivitis).
· Receding gums.
· Bad taste in the mouth or bad breath(Halitosis)
· Staining of teeth.
· Purulent (pus)discharge from gums
· Lesions on the roof of the mouth from concentrated heat stream (Smoker's Palate)
· White patches inside the mouth (leucoplakia).
· Poor healing after periodontal treatment, tooth extraction, or surgery.
· Tooth loss and increased loss of bone within the jaw.
· Plaque and tartar build up on the teeth.
· Oral cancer.
Symptoms of oral diseases to watch for include:
1. Dental conditions:
- Discoloration of teeth: Brown to black discoloration of the cervical margins of teeth caused by tar and by-products associated with smoking.
Treatment: Scaling and root planning, but stains will reappear with continued smoking habits.
- Tooth abrasion: It can occur due to pipe smoking and may result in dentin hypersensitivity and pulp exposure.
Treatment: Dentin desensitization, endodontic crowns.
2. Mucosal conditions:
- Nicotinic Stomatitis (Smoker’s palate): Lesions on the roof of the mouth caused by the concentrated stream of smoke commonly seen in pipe and reverse smokers. Heavy smoking can also lead to palatal erosions.
Treatment: It is a reversible condition with smoking cessation. A biopsy is required to rule out epithelial dysplasia or carcinoma.
- Burns and Keratotic patches: These often occur on the upper and lower lip where cigarettes or cigars are retained as a stub for a long period.
Treatment: Smoking cessation.
3. Gingival conditions:
- Smoker’s melanosis: A condition which causes darkening of the oral tissues from smoking and is associated with the melanocyte stimulation caused by cigarette smoke.
Treatment: According to the American Academy of Oral Medicine there is no treatment.
- Acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG): This is a painful and rapidly progressive disorder of the attached gingiva and alveolar mucosa leading to necrosis of the gingival papilla often accompanied by halitosis and is more common in smokers.
Treatment: Debridement under local anesthetic, improving oral hygiene and increasing awareness of the role of smoking on the oral cavity.
- Gingivitis: Bacterial growth is the first sign of gum disease. Smoking contributes to the formation of plaque and tartar, which promotes the growth of germs, inflames the gums, causes gingivitis, and eventually progresses to periodontitis.
Treatment: Visit your dentist in 6-12 months and maintain proper oral hygiene, floss every day and use fluoride toothpaste.
4. Oral cancer: Oral cancer includes mouth and oropharynx cancer. It is considered a lifestyle disease as the majority of cases are related to tobacco use and smoking. Oral cancer begins as white or red patches in the mouth with difficulty in chewing and swallowing, numbness in the jaw, and ear pain.
Treatment: Healthcare providers might combine surgery with other treatments like radiation therapy, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, or targeted therapy.
Preventing teeth and gum problems in smokers
Try to quit smoking.
If you’re finding it difficult to quit smoking, try and reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke and eventually stop smoking.
Brush your teeth with proper brushing techniques twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
Use dental floss or interdental brushes.
Visit your dentist every six months for routine dental check-ups to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Smoking causes dry mouth leading to halitosis. Stay hydrated and chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow.
Avoid using recreational drugs and drink alcohol in moderation.
The bottom line
The tell-tale signs of smoking include receding gums, chronic bad breath(halitosis), stained or loose teeth and mouth cancer. It is crucial for people who smoke cigarettes to visit a dentist regularly. Quitting smoking improves oral health, lowers the chance of developing oral cancer and periodontal disease, and enhances the effectiveness of dental treatments. If you want healthy teeth and gums that last a lifetime, make sure you take care of them and quit smoking.