Most people are aware that smoking and using chewing tobacco is detrimental to health and can lead to lung, mouth and throat cancer. It’s also common knowledge that smoking is linked to asthma, cardiopulmonary problems, and emphysema. The fact is, these health risks have been widely publicized throughout the United States over the past several decades and most people who use tobacco products are aware of them. However, there’s another side effect of tobacco use that is not as commonly known or discussed — the toll it takes on your overall oral health.
Smoking or using chewing tobacco constricts blood flow to the mouth and can transform it into a breeding ground for bacteria. Not only that, but smoking also:
- Causes bad breath
- Lengthens the time it takes to heal from oral surgery and oral wounds
- Causes staining and discoloration of the teeth
- Significantly increases the risk of oral cancer
It is understandably difficult to kick the habit of smoking. At Pavlik Orthodontics, we treat patients every day who are struggling with this difficult task, and we have discovered that people are more motivated to quit when they fully understand the oral risks tobacco poses. In response, we have put together this guide on why tobacco use is so bad for teeth and gums and how to combat the problems.
How Does Tobacco Damage Teeth?
Tobacco use negatively impacts oral health in many ways. Cigarettes limit the mouth’s ability to fight off infection, which makes a person vulnerable to bacteria. When your mouth can’t fight back, plaque and bacteria build up. This can lead to problems ranging from staining of the teeth to root canals, to tooth loss!
Additionally, when a person smokes they weaken their natural autoimmune defenses and the body has a hard time protecting itself. As a result, plaque and tartar buildup can become a major issue and can potentially cause infection. The grit and tar in tobacco can also rub up against teeth over time and will wear away their protective enamel coating.
It’s also important to realize that oral harm from tobacco is not just limited to cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco also damages the mouth, and not just because of nicotine. Many brands of chewing tobacco use sugar as an ingredient. When a person holds the tobacco in their mouth for long periods, they expose teeth to damaging sugar that can cause tooth decay!
Finally, consider these alarming statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- 16% of smokers have poor dental health, four times the rate of people who have never smoked.
- Smokers are less likely to have gone to the dentist in the past five years than non-smokers.
- More than a third of smokers have at least three dental health issues.
As oral health care professionals, the experts at Pavlik Orthodontics encourage all of our patients to refrain from tobacco use and to keep up a healthy daily regimen of flossing, brushing and using mouthwash. For more information, visit the Frequently Asked Questions page on our website!