Smoking & Its Implications
Smoking is a bad habit that is known to increase the risk of heart disease and other health problems such as lung cancer, stroke, and cataracts. It can also lead to oral health consequences and increase your risk of developing various dental problems. Although cigarette smoking is a major cause, other forms of tobacco such as cigars, smokeless tobacco and hookah pipes can also contribute to dental health problems.
Cigarette contains toxins such as tar (carcinogen), carbon monoxide, nicotine, and other components. Carcinogen is a substance that causes cancer, carbon monoxide decreases oxygen levels in the body whereas nicotine is an addictive substance.
Cigar and pipe smokers have a higher risk of tooth loss, gum diseases, oral and throat cancers and other ill-effects such as bad breath and stained teeth. Use of smokeless tobacco such as snuff and chewing tobacco also increase the risk of developing oral cancers. Chewing tobacco contains high levels of nicotine as compared to cigarettes and is more addictive. Smokeless tobacco usually contains sand and grit that can abrade your teeth (tooth abrasion) and irritate the gum tissue leading to receding gums. Receded gums expose the roots of the teeth and make eating uncomfortable because of sensitivity to hold and cold foods. Sugars which are often added to augment the flavor of smokeless tobacco increase the risk of developing tooth decay. Hence, there is a correlation between smoking and various conditions of the teeth and soft tissues of the mouth. The implications of smoking on oral health include the following:
Quitting smoking and other forms of tobacco can reduce your risk of developing all these oral and dental diseases. To help you quit smoking, your dentist or doctor may prescribe medications such as nicotine gum and patches (nicotine substitutes). In addition to drug
therapy, attending behavior modification programs such as smoking cessation classes and support groups may be helpful.
- Bad breath or halitosis: It is a condition characterized by unpleasant odor of the mouth. Smoking can cause bad breath, stained teeth, bad taste in the mouth, and irritation of the gums
- Discoloration of teeth because of stains
- Salivary gland (glands that produce saliva) openings on the roof of the mouth may get inflamed
- Deposition of sticky film of bacteria (plaque) and hardened plaque on teeth
- Increased bone loss in the jaw
- White or gray patches may develop on the tongue, gums, inside of the cheeks or floor of the mouth which may be a sign of leukoplakia(precancerous condition)
- Gum disease, which is a major cause of tooth loss, is a consequence of smoking. Smoking interferes with the normal functioning of the cells in the gum tissue and reduces the blood flow to the gums
- Wound healing after a tooth extraction, periodontal surgery or oral surgery procedure may become delayed
- Increased risk for oral cancers
- Success rate of dental implant procedures is lower in smokers