Effects of Smoking on Teeth
On 11th of January, 1964 smoking has been officially recognized as a harmful for health habit. On that day, U.S. General Surgeon Luther Terry released a report "Smoking and Health", which concluded that smoking contributes to the mortality from certain specific diseases.
57 years after the publication of this study, 30% of the Lithuanian population still smokes tobacco regularly. Often we probably don’t even think about the effects that tobacco has on our teeth. However, the oral cavity is like a front line, as tobacco smokes begin to damage the body precisely from the oral cavity and teeth. Teeth are an integral part of the whole human body, and thus clearly reflect the general condition of health.
Smoking is one of the biggest enemies of a healthy and beautiful smile, causing:
- Bad breath: the chemicals in cigarettes are not blown out along with the exhaled smoke, so they remain in the mouth, respiratory tracts and cause unpleasant breath.
- Tooth discoloration: inhaled cigarette smoke contains a number of resin composites, of which only about 30 percent is eliminated by exhaling air. The rest settles in the throat and lungs, as well as on the surface of the teeth and gums, as a result of which the teeth acquire a yellowish and sometimes even brown color.
- Hard dental plaque: smokers accumulate more plaque. If not removed, it results in the formation of dark tartar.
- Tooth and gum sensitivity: smoking reduces saliva and weakens the immune system, making teeth more vulnerable to infections and impairing tissue healing.
- Tooth decay: due to the dryness of the oral mucosa in smokers, tooth decay spreads several times faster.
- Periodontitis: this is the most common disease faced by smokers. During it, inflammation damages the tissues surrounding the tooth: gums, periodontal ligament, cement, alveolar bone. Smokers tend to have a more severe periodontal form than non-smokers because the tissues heal more slowly due to narrowed blood vessels. As a result of this disease, smokers lose teeth more often and faster - it is estimated that about 40% of smokers over the age of 60 lose all or almost all of their teeth.
- Cancer: smokers are at risk not only for the notorious lung cancer, but also for other forms of this disease. Due to the carcinogens in cigarettes, smokers are 10 times more likely to develop stomach, esophageal, lung and oral cancers. Prolonged non-healing wounds and ulcers may be the first signs of cancer.
- Slower healing after surgery: nicotine and carbon monoxide entering the human blood disrupt blood flow to certain areas, thus complicating and slowing down post-operative healing and resulting in slower wound healing. Therefore, smoking is strictly prohibited on the day of surgery and for at least 2 weeks afterwards.
- Higher risk of post-operative complications: smokers are more likely to have surgical complications. The most common complications are poorly healing wounds, long-lasting scars or wound infections. As blood flow slows, there is also the possibility of implant rejection.
The progression of gum diseases slows down once an individuals quits smoking. Quitting smoking can even restore a normal gum healing response, so the gums are likely to become healthier.
Those who do not plan to quit smoking should pay more attention to dental care: visit the dentist or oral hygienist more frequently to assess the condition of the teeth, gums and periodontitis. Sometimes it is advised to use special toothpaste that reduces the accumulation of tobacco pigment, and to decrease the gathering of dark pigmented plaque on the tooth surface, the teeth should be cleaned after each smoked cigarette. It is recommended to use interdental floss and interdental brushes, clean the tongue with a special scraper and, if necessary, use a mouthwash. In addition, proper nutrition is extremely important.