Smoking and Oral Health
What are the risks of smoking?
The effects of smoking on overall health have become more widely acknowledged. It can be the cause of various medical issues and even fatal diseases. However, the damage smoking can have on our teeth and gums are unrecognised by many due to lack of education on the subject. Gum disease, tooth loss and stained teeth are all common results of smoking. There is also the risk of developing oral cancer which is extremely difficult to treat.
Why does smoking stain teeth?
The tar and nicotine in cigarettes can lead to teeth becoming stained and yellow in a short space of time. People who have smoked heavily for a number of years will often find the colour of their teeth is verging on brown.
How are teeth and gums affected?
Gum disease often occurs as a result of excessive smoking due to the increased likelihood of plaque gathering in the mouth and affecting the gums. Smoking leads to a shortage of oxygen in the bloodstream, meaning that infected gums cannot heal as quickly. Gum disease is the most common preventable leading factor of tooth loss in adults.
What is the link between smoking and cancer?
Many are aware that smoking can lead to throat and lung cancer but less likely to be aware of its part in the development of mouth cancer. Thousands of people die each year as a result of oral cancer caused by smoking and it is becoming a growing problem for many.
Are there any special products available?
There are some specialist toothpastes available to help those who smoke on a regular basis. These should be used carefully as they are often more abrasive on teeth and gums than standard toothpastes. Your dentist may recommend using specially designed toothpaste along with a normal brand of toothpaste.
Numerous toothpastes will claim to whiten teeth but it is essential that you keep an eye out for ones that have been accredited by the British Dental Health Foundation. The logo for this is an indication that the claims made on the packaging are proven to be scientifically correct. The packaging may, for example, state that the product effectively removes any teeth staining caused by smoking.
Will mouthwash help?
Smokers often find that they more prone to bad breath than those who do not smoke. Mouthwash and other fresh breath products can offer a short term solution to mask the problem, but will not solve it in the long term.
How often do I need to visit the dentist?
You should make regular appointments with your dentist for standard dental check-ups and full mouth examinations. This will allow any health problems to be identified early on. You should make a dental appointment at least once a year.
Appointments are often required more frequently if the dentist advises it is necessary. Smokers are far more likely to suffer from stained teeth and may therefore need regular appointments with a dental hygienist to clean the teeth of bacteria.
How can the dentist help?
A dentist can carry out regular examinations to ensure the gums and teeth are in good health. They can also carry out examinations on your throat, cheeks and tongue to identify symptoms of any other conditions requiring further investigation. In some cases, it may be necessary to refer you to self-help groups or organisations which provide help on quitting the habit.
Will any further treatment be required?
A dentist can refer you to a dental hygienist for any necessary treatment; professional cleanings and close observation of your oral hygiene routine. The dental hygienist will let you know how often you need to visit them, which is most often every three to six months.