With approximately 1 billion smokers worldwide, 7 million people die each year from tobacco-related diseases. It’s time to talk about how smoking affects the oral cavity.
With many different types of tobacco, herbal smoke, and electronic options available today, it’s important to realize that each of these different types of smoking still damage your teeth and gums.
Are there any types of smoking that are better or worse for you? Let’s examine how each of these types of smoking affect your risk for oral diseases such as gum disease and oral cancer and can cause your smile to deteriorate over time.
Cigarettes have been a known public health threat since 1964, when public alerts were finally issued about how dangerous cigarette smoke was to the human body.
Smoking cigarettes more than doubles your risk of getting gum disease in addition to causing more plaque and tartar to accumulate on the teeth.
Cigarettes also contain nicotine, the strongly addictive substance in tobacco. Nicotine works to reduce the blood flow to the gum tissue, which stops precious nutrients from reaching this vital supportive tissue for your teeth. This inhibited blood flow can also lead to an increased risk for gum disease.
In addition, cigarettes increase your risk for oral cancer and can cause dry mouth and bad breath. Cigarettes are just as dangerous to your bodily health as they are to your oral health!
Marijuana is one of the most controversial types of smoking, but when it comes to your dental health, the evidence is clear: marijuana smoke can damage your teeth and gums.
Research shows a strong association between people who smoke marijuana and an increased risk for gum disease. In fact, one study notes that its participants who smoked were 60% more likely to get gum disease than non-cannabis smokers.
Smoking marijuana also reduces the amount of saliva in the oral cavity, leading to dry mouth. Having chronic dry mouth can lead to a range of oral health problems, from tooth decay to bad breath.
Research also remains clear that smoking marijuana comes with an increased risk of oral cancer, making it an unsafe alternative to cigarettes.
Cigars aren’t any safer than cigarette smoke. Although you’re not actually inhaling the smoke, it does still come into contact with the tissues in your mouth and contains toxic substances.
In fact, one regular-sized cigar can contain as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. Cigar smoke increases the risk of numerous diseases, such as lung and heart disease in addition to oral cancer.
Whether you smoke cigars occasionally or regularly, remember that these tobacco products contain high amounts of nicotine and aren’t any better for your smile than cigarettes!
Pipe Tobacco (Natural Tobacco)
Natural tobacco or herbal cigarettes are still toxic to both your body as well as your oral cavity. These types of smoking still produce carbon monoxide and tar, which increase your risk for cancer.
Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that these types of smoking are safer than regular cigarettes. Burning tobacco and inhaling it still exposes your body to carcinogens.
There is evidence that smokers of these types of hand-rolled cigarettes or pipe tobacco actually have more instances of cancer than people who smoke traditional cigarettes.
It’s important to remember that other forms of natural tobacco such as chewing tobacco still increase your chances of getting oral cancer, despite the fact that you aren’t inhaling any smoke, you are still introducing nicotine and toxins into your oral cavity.
One of the most dangerous things about e-cigarettes is that there are no long-term data on how these electronic devices affect the oral cavity or the body.
We do know that while e-cigarettes remain less harmful than regular cigarettes, they are still toxic to the body and carry a similar risk for oral health issues including oral cancers.
The nicotine contained in e-cigarettes still dries out your mouth; therefore, gum tissue does not get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to stay healthy. This can cause gum recession as well as an increased risk for gum disease, similarly to regular cigarettes.
In fact, e-cigarettes can mask the symptoms of gum disease, making it harder to detect the infection due to lack of blood flow and swelling to the site of infection, making you think that everything’s ok when really gum disease is progressing.
In addition, e-cigarettes not only contain dangerous chemicals such as those used in anti-freeze, but the presence of numerous heavy metals has been detected in leading e-cigarette brands. These metals are toxic and possibly carcinogenic when inhaled.
The takeaway here is that e-cigarettes still increase your risk for oral cancer and are still toxic to your smile despite being somewhat safer than traditional cigarettes according to current research. It’s also essential to bear in mind that since long-term data regarding the effect of e-cigarettes is lacking, these alternative smoking devices shouldn’t be used lightly.
While some types of smoking such as e-cigarettes and marijuana have been marketed to be safer than cigarette smoke, there really is no such thing as safe smoking or any form of tobacco or herbal smoke that does not increase your risk for oral health problems.
As we’ve seen, all of these types of smoking increase your risk for oral disease. Many of these types of smoking such as cigarette smoke can shorten your life by decades and kill millions of people each year.
If you choose to smoke, getting an annual oral cancer screening with your dentist in Asheville is essential. These screenings are simple, painless, and can save your life if oral cancer is detected early enough!
If you’re addicted to tobacco but want to quit, let’s talk about what your options are. Your primary care physician can also help you set up a plan to quit smoking. Other resources such as Smokefree.gov can help you set a quit date and stick to it.
Make an appointment with Saunders DDS today to get your smile evaluated whether or not you’re a smoker. It’s essential to ensure your smile is going to last you for life!