How Smoking Affects the Teeth, Gums, and Tongue
At this point, it’s no secret that smoking is bad for you: even a pack of cigarettes comes with a boldly printed warning label saying as much. Although smoking does seem to be on a slow decline as far as people who are regular smokers, there are still a vast number of Americans who do smoke. According to the CDC, in 2015 almost 18% of Americans smoked. That’s over 42 million people! Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and is currently responsible for about 20% of deaths.
Nicotine is an incredibly addictive substance that, combined with the many other chemicals in tobacco products, can have some extremely powerful and negative effects on a person’s health. Most commonly, smoking causes lung cancer, but did you know it has strong effects on a smoker’s oral health too? Smoking, or using any tobacco products, does impact the teeth, gums, and tongue.
So how does smoking affect your oral health, specifically?
When we talk about smoking in this article, we are referring to tobacco products in general, including all smokeless products.
Tobacco consumption in general is harmful and can cause the negative side effects listed below:
- Increased buildup of plaque
- Yellow or discolored teeth
- Stained tongue
- Bad breath
- Bone loss in the mouth/jaw
- Gum disease that is more severe and harder to treat than in non-smokers
- Poor results or healing with dental surgery/procedures, such as dental implants
- Higher risk of gum disease and oral cancer
- Gum irritation or sensitivity
- Inability to taste foods
- Tooth loss
- Leukoplakia, or thick white patches in the mouth
If you are a smoker, share that information with your dentist and doctor. Your dentist may want to see you more often than twice a year to monitor your teeth and gums for any issues.
Although you may lessen the negative effects on your oral health by reducing the amount you smoke, the best thing to do is to quit smoking. Even if you have smoked for many years, you can still reap a multitude of health benefits by quitting now. There are many resources, medications, and over the counter products available through your doctor or community if you choose to quit.
And as always, whether you smoke or not – and perhaps it is of particular importance if you do – be sure to practice good dental hygiene. Brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day, and visit your dentist at least twice a year for your scheduled cleanings.