Any type of tobacco use has the potential to impact your oral health, whether you chew tobacco, smoke cigars or cigarettes, or even “vape”.
Smoking is one of the biggest preventable causes of death and disease worldwide. Since your mouth is where the smoke, vapor, or chewing tobacco enters your body, it makes sense that tobacco use would affect your oral health.
Knowing the risk of using tobacco, even recreationally, is important when it comes to protecting your smile. Here’s how smoking, vaping, and chewing tobacco can affect your smile.
Smoking Increases Your Risk for Gum Disease
One of the biggest oral health complications from smoking and tobacco use is periodontal disease. Also called gum disease, periodontal disease is influenced by smoking in a few ways.
First, smoking affects your immune system, making it harder for your body to fight off an infection. In gum disease, oral bacteria and plaque cause an infection in the gum tissue that can lead to symptoms such as bleeding gums and bad breath.
The nicotine in cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and e-cigarettes can also reduce blood flow to the gum tissue, which can mask the symptoms of gum disease. As a result, people who use tobacco may have advancing gum disease and not know it.
Smoking also makes it more difficult for you to heal from gum disease. Even if you receive treatment, it may not be successful if you are still an active smoker, or it may take longer for the treatment to work. You may also need several treatments to heal your gum disease.
People who use tobacco are also at a higher risk for tooth loss as a result of their increased risk for gum disease. Gum disease is one of the most common causes of tooth loss in adults.
Problems Healing After Dental Procedures
Since smoking and tobacco use impacts the immune system, it can disrupt healing after dental procedures, including dental implants, tooth extractions, and restorative dentistry procedures such as dental bridges.
Tobacco use also increases your risk of infection and other complications after a dental procedure. Since smoking interferes with the body’s ability to get nutrients to the wound site for healing, your healing may take longer or you may experience complications.
In some cases, such as with dental implants, the procedure may even “fail”, meaning the implant would reject and you would need to have it removed.
Smoking Can Cause Dry Mouth
Saliva in your oral cavity protects your teeth from bacteria and acids that can cause tooth decay and gum disease. Without enough saliva, you’re more at risk for both tooth decay and gum disease, not to mention bad breath and oral infections.
People who smoke tend to have dry mouths, which puts them at higher risk for oral health issues such as tooth decay, bad breath, and oral infections such as oral thrush. Dry mouth can also cause more plaque and tartar in the oral cavity.
Combined with the other risk factors for oral disease with smoking, dry mouth can exacerbate these health issues and lead to more complicaitons with your smile.
Tobacco Use Increases Your Risk for Oral Cancer
Oral cancer includes cancers of the mouth, tongue, upper part of your throat, cheeks, and lips. People who use tobacco have ten times the risk for developing oral cancer than non-smokers. This is in addition to increasing your risk for other cancers in the body, including lung and bladder cancer.
If you use tobacco, oral cancer screenings are a must for assessing your cancer risk. Your dentist in Asheville can conduct a simple and painless oral cancer screening during your next checkup. Oral cancer screenings are recommended annually beginning from the age you started using tobacco.
Smoking May Increase Your Risk for Tooth Decay
If you vape or chew tobacco, these products are typically sweetened with forms of sugar and other substances that stick to teeth and can increase plaque buildup.
Not only can this make it more difficult to keep your teeth clean, but it could lead to tooth enamel damage. Tooth enamel damage as the result of tobacco use can cause discolored teeth and cavities. People who use tobacco are particularly more at risk for cavities near the gumline.
Smokers also have more disease-causing oral bacteria, even if they don’t have gum disease. Increased plaque buildup and oral bacteria combined with impaired immune function can make it more likely for tobacco users to develop gum disease or tooth decay, especially the longer or more frequently they smoke or chew tobacco.
Tobacco Use Can Cause Chronic Bad Breath
Chronic bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth are both symptoms of gum disease. However, smoking can also lead to persistent bad breath that doesn’t go away even after brushing and flossing whether or not you have gum disease. The more you smoke or use tobacco, the more likely you are to have bad breath.
Smoking and tobacco use can also cause tooth discoloration. Teeth may appear more yellow or brown due to the substances in chewing tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes. Teeth staining from tobacco use can be difficult to correct with cosmetic dentistry procedures such as teeth whitening. The longer you smoke, the deeper the stains are likely to be and the more difficult they will be to correct.
Tobacco use can also cause an altered sense of taste and smell. The good news is that when you quit smoking, you can recover your sense of taste relatively quickly.
There’s Never Been a Better Time to Quit
It’s never too late to quit smoking. From saving money to protecting both your oral and bodily health, smoking cessation is an attainable and worthy goal. Ask your dentist in Asheville how you can get started setting a quit date and taking steps toward reducing or eliminating smoking, vaping, or chewing tobacco in your life.
Saunders DDS is your local Asheville dentist conducting oral exams, cleanings, and oral cancer screenings to help protect your smile. Contact us to book an appointment to protect your teeth and gums whether or not you smoke or chewing tobacco. Call us at (828) 277-6060 or request a specific appointment day and time online.