We have all heard the warnings from the Surgeon General about the use of tobacco products and smoking on your body. It can increase the chances of you developing heart disease, lung problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and a host of cancers. But what you may not know is that smoking and using tobacco also has a negative effect on your teeth and mouth.
How Does Tobacco Affect My Teeth?
If anyone who has had surgery knows, you are asked to refrain from smoking prior to surgery and for a time afterwards. This is because smoking decreases your ability to heal. The same applies to your mouth. It also means that your teeth wear down more quickly. Also, the use of cigars, snuff and chewing tobacco, and unprocessed tobacco leaves for cigar wrappers have abrasive substances that wear down teeth. When these abrasive substances meet with your saliva and chewed, they form a paste that wears your teeth down over time.
Another issue with smoking and the use of tobacco products is that it can reduce the effectiveness of dental treatments. Because there is less oxygen in your blood, an increase in the bacteria, and inflammation of the tissues and gums in your mouth, it is difficult to have teeth replaced should that be necessary.
Another thought to ponder, the choices for tooth replacement may be limited if you are a tobacco user. Tobacco use can weaken your jawbone with infection and decay making it difficult to have implants and bridges placed. Research has shown the failure rate for smokers was 16 percent for implants compared to 1.4 percent in non-smokers.
Treating gum disease is harder.
As stated previously, smoking inhibits your body’s ability to fight off infection or to heal quickly should an infection develop. Because of this, smokers are more than twice as likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers. Gum disease in smokers can quickly become a much more serious infection such as an abcess or even sepsis.
Once a smoker develops gum disease, it is harder to treat because smoking prevents adequate oxygen from entering the bloodstream. Oxygenated blood is necessary for healthy healing gum tissues in general but especially after oral surgery.
What about chewing tobacco?
Chewing tobacco (also known as smokeless tobacco or snuff) causes a multitude of cancers including the mouth, lip and even the pancreas. There are at least 28 cancer-causing agents in any tobacco product. Here are a few of the issues that can be traced to using smokeless tobacco products:
- Swallowing toxins created by chewing tobacco increases the risk of cancer for the esophagus, voice box, colon and bladder
- Gum disease (periodontal disease) due to irritation from chewing tobacco
- Since sugar is added to the smokeless tobacco products, there is an increased risk for tooth decay
- Grit and sand produced from smokeless tobacco can cause tooth sensitivity and erosion of the enamel
What can I do?
There are things you can do to reduce the problems associated with tobacco products. The first is to recognize that dependence on tobacco is an addiction disorder and can be treated. There are physiological and psychological issues that need to be addressed. It may take several attempts at quitting before you are successful. Work with your physician to find the best strategy to quit.
Use of tobacco products, whether by smoking or chewing, can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and put you at risk for successful restorative dentistry. But all is not lost, if you would like help in restoring your smile from tobacco use, please schedule an appointment with Dr. James Lassiter with Lassiter Family Dentistry in Kingsland, GA at (912) 208-2565 or schedule an appointment online today.