How Tobacco Affects Your Mouth

You hear every day about the dangers of smoking. One of the less talked about issues with smoking is the effect it has on your oral health. Whether it is cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars or pipes, tobacco use wreaks havoc on your mouth in more ways than one.

Dr. Walter Hadley of Marineland Dental Care in Kennewick, WA wants you to have the healthiest mouth you can. He can talk to you about what smoking can do to your smile and some ways he can help reverse that damage.

Smokers have a higher risk for gum disease (periodontal disease). In fact, smokers are four times more likely to develop gum disease than people who’ve never smoked. Periodontal disease accounts for almost 50 percent of smoking-related diseases.

It matters how much you smoke as well. Smokers who smoke more than one and a half packs of cigarettes a day are six times more likely than non-smokers to develop periodontal disease!

Smoking is also a major cause of oral cancer
. About 50,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed every year in the United State. Eight out of ten oral cancer patients were smokers, according to one study at the University of San Francisco.

Here are some other ways smoking can affect your oral health:

Your sense of taste and smell
 is impaired

Both young and old smokers can suffer an impaired sense of taste and smell. Here’s why: Smoking can damage the olfactory nerves in your nose. They can no longer send signals to your brain about how something smells. The taste receptors in your tongue can also be damaged, impairing your ability to taste food.

Cosmetic dental problems
 become more difficult

Some dental procedures are riskier if you are a long-term smoker. Smoking can cause delays in the healing phases of some treatments, like dental implants. The body needs oxygen in order for wounds to heal. Smoking deprives the body of that oxygen. When that happens, cells are slower to repair. Your immune system is weakened.

Smoking can also contribute to bone loss. Weakened bones in your jaw can make a difference in whether an implant can be fused.

When you come in to see us, we can talk about other dental procedures that can possibly be affected by smoking. Give us a call at 509-591-0515 if you would like more information.

Your teeth and tongue
 become stained

Tobacco smoke contains the chemicals tar and nicotine. Not only are these chemicals dangerous for your body, they can also stain your teeth and tongue. When you inhale tobacco or put tobacco into your mouth, nicotine and tar will settle into the oral cavity. They then leach their way into microscopic openings in your enamel. The result is a yellow/brown discoloration on the tooth surface.

The most effective way to remove these stubborn stains is by having them professionally whitened. Teeth whitening can dramatically reduce or eliminate tooth stains caused by tobacco, but the stains are likely to reappear if you continue to smoke after treatment. The surest way to avoid re-staining the teeth – and to ensure a lifetime of good oral and general health – is to quit smoking.

We offer other options for getting the white back in your smile, such as veneers.

You develop bad breath


You’ve heard of smokers’ breath. Regular smokers have a stale scent to their breath. That’s because other people can actually smell the smoke. But bad breath can also be caused by gum disease. Tobacco contains chemicals that can encourage gum disease. Tobacco also tends to dry out your palate, which makes it easier for bacteria to grow.

What You Can Do

The first and best thing to do is to quit smoking, not just because you want your teeth to look good, but for your total health and well-being.

Regular dental exams and cleanings can keep some of the issues with smoking away. Cleanings will keep the tar and nicotine from building up on your teeth and we can detect oral cancer symptoms early.

Practice good oral hygiene at home. Brush your teeth and gums at least twice a day and floss regularly. Good oral hygiene practices can help keep the carcinogens in tobacco from wreaking havoc in your mouth.

Call us at 509-591-0515 for an appointment. You can also fill out our online form. With regular dental visits you can stay on top of problems with your mouth and smile.

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