Oral health problems caused by smoking
Most people are well aware of the dangers of smoking on one’s health, however smoking can also cause many serious problems for teeth and oral structures. These problems can gradually increase in severity if a proper oral hygiene regimen is not followed. The most commonly observed oral problem in smokers is gum disease. Smokers are four times more likely to suffer from gum disease than non-smokers. Gum disease, or periodontal disease, occurs when a build-up of bacterial plaque targets the tissue that makes up the gums, alveolar bone (where teeth are embedded), periodontal ligament (supporting the root of the tooth), and cementum (surface connecting the tooth to the alveolar bone). When these structures are negatively compromised, tooth loss can occur. The high concentration of harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke makes a smoker twice as likely to experience tooth loss.
These same harmful chemicals also put smoker’s at a much higher risk of developing oral cancer. Along with this, smoker’s generally have a harder time recovering from dental procedures such as implants, periodontal treatments and tooth extraction. One possible complication of a tooth extraction is dry socket. When this occurs, the patient experiences severe pain in the affected area. This complication is must more likely to occur in a smoker.
In addition to these various medical ailments, smoking can have a negative aesthetic impact on the teeth and mouth. Increased levels of plaque and tartar build-up can make a smoker’s teeth less attractive in appearance. Many smoker’s experience heavy tooth staining and bad breath. These surface stains not only compromise aesthetics, but also create an ideal surface for bacterial attachment which only makes matters worse.
In some smokers, the tongue can develop a condition known as black hairy tongue, due to a growth that may grow as a result of tobacco use. The condition causes the tongue to become yellow, green, black, or brown, and give the appearance of being hairy. Smokers may also lose the sensation of taste and smell.
Dental Hygiene Tips to Improve Oral Health
While quitting smoking is the most effective way to ensure better oral health, there are some tips that those who choose to smoke should follow. Due to the higher risks brought about by smoking, smoker’s should consider making their visits to the dentist a little more frequent. A regular routine check-up can help the dentist to identify early signs of gum disease and oral cancer. Smokers can also benefit greatly from regular visits to a dental hygienist who can carry out a thorough clean and stain removal.
For those wishing to be extra cautious, it is highly recommended to perform a self-checkup. This includes identifying long lasting sores around the face, mouth, and neck. If the sores persist after two weeks, it may be a sign of a more serious problem. People who smoke should also check for recurrent bleeding in the mouth, lesions, swelling, and lumps. White, red, or dark patches on the inside of the mouth, under the tongue, and on the cheeks that last more than two weeks should be brought to the attention of a dentist. Lumps on the lips and gums can also indicate a more serious problem, as should numbness or pain in any part of the mouth.
Oral hygiene advice and various treatments are always available. Both the dentist and hygienist are experienced in treating heavy smoker’s and anxious patients. Do not hesitate to seek help or advice.