We’re all highly aware of the harm that smoking causes. Aside from the various medical issues that smoking brings, it could even lead to fatal illness. What people may not realize, though, is the damage that smoking can do to their mouth, gums, and teeth. Smoking can lead to gum disease, tooth discoloration, tooth loss, and in more severe cases, oral cancer.
The Center for Disease Control has reported that there are 36 million smokers just in the U.S. That’s about 15% of the country’s population. This is an alarming number when you take into account the harmful effects of smoking on the body.
So the big money question is: What does smoking actually do to your teeth?
Simple: It increases plaque and bacteria in the mouth causing a wide array of oral health problems:
Tooth staining – Tooth discoloration is one of the main signs that a person smokes. There are certain chemicals in tobacco that get stuck in your teeth’s enamel, causing them to get discolored over time. Teeth whitening products can delay this effect but frequent smoking will make the teeth stains irreversible.
Halitosis – This is the medical term for bad breath. The substances inside cigarettes linger in the mouth even after the smoker has finished smoking. This makes breath still smell like cigarettes long after a person has finished smoking. Smoking creates thousands of bacteria inside the mouth which cause bad breath.
Gum Problems – Smoking can also cause gum problems. People who smoke are more likely to develop bacterial plaque, which leads to gum disease. It affects the gums because smoking depletes oxygen in the bloodstream, leading to delayed healing of the infected gums. The logic behind it is simple. Smoking causes an increase in mouth bacteria which leads to increased dental plaque, the primary factor that causes gum disease. That is why smokers are twice as likely to develop gum disease compared to non-smokers.
Oral Cancer – The Oral Cancer Foundation released a survey stating that around 50,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. Just as alarming is the fact that 80% of them are smokers. Although smoking is a risk factor in itself for developing oral cancer, partnering it with heavy drinking increases your cancer chances as well. Oral cancer is first detected by identifying a white or red patch inside the mouth, which is usually combined with difficulty in swallowing, numbness along the jawline, and even subtle symptoms such as ear pain.
So the next time you’re eyeing some Parliaments or Marlboros, think twice and remember the oral risks that accompany your decision, remember that your oral health is in your hands.