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How Does Smoking Affect My Teeth and Smile?

 

The negative effects of smoking on the body in general are well known by most people. Smoking not only impacts your heart and lungs, but it also adversely affects your oral health by damaging the teeth, gums, and tongue. In addition to cigarette smoking, vaping using electronic cigarette devices (usually called e-cigarettes) has risen in popularity among younger generations. This is still a new and regulated area. Although some people may  generally consider it “safer,” smoke is still being introduced into the body and with it a number of other chemicals and inhalants.

 

Common Dental Problems Caused by Cigarette Smoking 

Tooth Discoloration 

Cigarette smoke is thick enough to stain painted walls, so it should come as no surprise that it’s able to stain teeth as well. Smoking stains your teeth a deep yellow-brown colour and will help harbour more bacteria in the mouth. This often results in higher dental care costs, as smokers must whiten their teeth more frequently. Discoloured teeth not only look bad, but they can negatively impact your career and social life. Many professional careers depend on a clean appearance, and if your teeth are yellowed or stained from using cigarettes, it may impact your job prospects. 

 

Tooth Decay 

Tobacco cigarette smoke is reported to contain over 7,000 chemicals, including acetone,  ammonia, arsenic, carbon monoxide, nicotine and, tar. Many of these chemicals attack and break down the protective enamel covering the teeth, making the prone to decay. The increased risk of tooth decay among smokers places them at a higher risk for losing teeth. And losing just a single tooth can shift other teeth out of position. If you experience severe tooth decay from prolonged smoking and other poor hygiene habits, you risk losing the tooth or needing more serious procedures like root canal therapy. 

Gum Disease 

The average smoker is up to 6 times more likely to develop severe gum disease than a non-smoker. Severe gum disease can contribute to a number of issues with the soft tissue in your mouth, but can also lead to bone loss in the jaw. As the plaque and bacteria multiply, they will make their way across the tooth’s surface while heading toward the gums. Most commonly, it will first increase the levels of gum inflammation in the mouth whilst at the same time masking the bleeding on brushing most associated with gum issues. If not treated by regular deep cleans by your dentist/hygienist this will progress to gum disease which results in bone loss and ultimately tooth loss. This is why it’s important to floss at least once a day, and why dentists advise quitting smoking.  

 

Cancer 

Most people have heard of cancer affecting parts of the body such as the lungs or breasts. However, did you know that smoking is one of the main causes of mouth cancer? The disease can affect the lips, tongue, cheeks and throat. Every year, thousands of people die from mouth cancer brought on by smoking.

Tongue Cancer 

Several studies have found a direct link to smoking and higher rates of tongue cancer. The condition usually begins as small white bumps that gradually grow larger if left untreated. Tongue cancer is usually curable if diagnosed and treated early, but if a smoker with tongue cancer does not take action quickly, the cancer can spread to the lymphatic system and other areas of the body. 

 

Loss of Taste 

Long-term use of tobacco cigarettes will dull the taste buds, making food and beverages just a little less enjoyable. The thousands of chemicals in cigarette smoke damage the taste buds, resulting in duller, less intense flavours. Many former smokers report a positive change in taste after kicking the habit.

Bad Breath

The old saying “your breath smells like an ashtray” definitely holds true with smokers today. Cigarette particles remain in the mouth long after a cigarette is put out. And beyond this, people who smoke are more likely to suffer from bad breath due to longer-term effects and the overgrowth of bacteria in the smoker’s mouth.

Fresh-breath products such as mouthwashes may help to disguise the problem in the short-term. However, they are not a long-term solution or cure.

 

What If You Lose Your Teeth?

At this point, you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? I don’t like my teeth that much, and I can always get implants if I lose a tooth.”

This would be true if you were a non-smoker. However, it is important to remember that dental implants require a healthy jawbone.  If you’re losing your teeth because of eroding bone and tissue, you will not have a stable anchor for dental implants.

Furthermore, you will have a regularly changing jaw. This means you can look to obtain dentures, but you will require several regular fittings as your jaw shrinks.

 

What If You Can’t Quit Smoking?

Smoking affects your teeth and your mouth. So why not just quit? If you have attempted to quit smoking multiple times and not succeeded, then look at the next best option. A commitment to reducing your quantity of daily smoking will dramatically improve your oral health and help save your teeth.

It is also important to plan on visiting your dentist regularly. They can help you find ways to fight gum disease that leads to tooth loss.

 

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