By now most people are aware of the dangers of cigarettes to general health, but many people are not aware of the dangers smoking and tobacco use pose to oral health. Bad breath and stained teeth are minor compared to some more serious dental health issues smoking can cause. Smoking can also cause oral cancer, which like all cancers, has the potential to be fatal.
Nearly all smokers will experience bad breath and stained teeth. You can whiten your teeth with professional whitening, but if you continue smoking, your teeth will stain again. Bad breath can become chronic when tar and nicotine settle in your mouth. Smoking also causes dry mouth, which can make bad breath worse. Covering up bad breath with mints or mouthwash does not eliminate the problem. As long as you continue to use tobacco, “smoker’s breath” will exist.
Periodontal or gum disease is common and can happen to anyone, but smokers are at increased risk. This is because tobacco interferes with cell tissue in the gums and causes separation of the gums from the underlying bone. This makes the area more susceptible to the entrance of bacteria and infection. This advanced risk of gum disease in turn creates a greater risk for smokers of tooth loss.
Compounding the issue with the bones under your gums is this fact: If you do lose teeth and desire to have them replaced with dental implants, smoking makes it less likely that implants will be successful. Implants need strong healthy bone in order to work. Healing after oral surgery also tends to take longer for smokers than nonsmokers because smoking impedes blood flow to the gums.
Oral cancer is the most dangerous threat smoking poses to your mouth. Oral cancer is any cancer that occurs in the mouth, around the mouth including the lips, or in the throat. Men and older people are the most likely to get oral cancer, though diagnoses in younger adults are increasing. Smoking and other tobacco use is a major risk factor for oral cancer. Oral cancer screening can detect oral cancer early, and people at higher risk, including smokers, may benefit from having oral cancer screening as part of their dental checkups.
If you are a smoker or use tobacco products, quitting can not only benefit your overall health and reduce your cancer risk, it can greatly improve the condition of your mouth and help your teeth and gums to be cleaner and healthier.