If you tell your doctor that you smoke, then you should be prepared to get an earful. This is something that we are all prepared for and expect – and even those who continue to smoke are largely aware of all the health issues that can be caused by it.
However what you might not have expected as much is the hard time that your dentist might give you. You see, while we might not be aware of it, smoking is also incredibly bad for our oral hygiene – for our teeth and for the tissue in our mouth in general. Here we will look at a small selection of the things that smoking does to damage your oral health and why it is so important for your mouth alone that you stop smoking.
Smoking can cause damage to your teeth in a number of ways. Generally those who smoke will enjoy yellow and discolored teeth where it has been stained by the tobacco in much the same way they tend to get yellow fingers. This is highly unattractive and means that those who smoke are unlikely to ever enjoy a ‘Hollywood’ smile without cosmetic surgery.
Smoke can also cause bad breath. This is both because it aids the proliferation of bacteria (through affecting the function of the saliva glands), and because the smoke in itself can be unpleasant. Many people state that they wouldn’t date someone who smoked – the simple reason being that the taste would be too bad when they kissed.
As we’ve briefly touched upon, smoking increases the amount of bacteria in the mouth by preventing us from salivating as much, as well as by making your mouth nice and warm for germs. This then also results in more plaque which is after all a by-product of bacteria. This then means you are more likely to suffer from the whole gamut of problems caused by plaque.
Smoking leads to gum disease which in itself can cause the teeth to appear long and crooked and ultimately to come lose. The reason for that is that the tobacco smoke can damage the attachment of bone and soft tissue to the teeth, while at the same time damaging the way that the gum cells function. These gaps, followed by the weakness, make smokers more susceptible to infections such as periodontal disease.
As mentioned gum disease is likely to cause tooth loss, but even before this, the loosening of the teeth from the soft tissue and jaw bone is likely to lead to tooth loss. In fact smokers are twice as likely to lose teeth as non-smokers are.
If you smoke then this will interfere with the healing of gums and oral tissue in a number of situations. If you cut yourself when brushing your teeth or on your food, or if you develop an ulcer then it will stick around for longer. And this also again increases the chances of developing infections. This is especially acute in ‘tooth extraction’ wherein smoking is likely to result in a painful condition known as ‘dry socket’.
Lack of Taste
One of the things that smokers tend to comment on when they quit is how much better everything tastes. The reason for this is that smoking kills taste buds resulting in a less effective sense of taste and taking a lot of the joy out of eating and drinking. Smoking would be a bad habit in particular then for a wine tester, food critic or chef.
Lack of Suitability
If you smoke then you become less eligible for a range of procedures, including for instance the use of dental implants which involve screwing teeth into the gum and jaw, as well as periodontal treatments. This is both a result of the damaged teeth and gums, as well as of the delayed healing.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider of course is that smoking can lead to the formation of cancerous tumors in the mouth. The reason for this is that both the smoke and the tobacco themselves contain substances that are harmful and damaging to the delicate tissue in the mouth. These ‘bombard’ the cell walls resulting in them becoming damaged over time. Eventually this bombardment will completely penetrate the cell walls all the way into the ‘nucleus’ of the cell which is where the DNA is held. Once this is affected the cells will suffer a genetic mutation that ultimately leads to cancer.
Growths and Discoloration
Tumors aren’t the only growths you need to look out for in your mouth as a smoker. Also a problem is a condition known as ‘black hairy tongue’. Yes it’s exactly as it sounds, referring to black furry growths that can form on the tongue which look highly unappealing. You will also be more likely to suffer from ‘leukoplakia’ which are small white patches around the inside of the mouth.