Most of us are very much aware of the damage smoking can do to our bodies – we are constantly bombarded with health warnings, adverts and advice from health officials warning us of the potential danger of this ‘toxic habit.’ Probably the most common thing we associate with smoking is lung cancer and as such it can be easy to forget how many other parts of the body, including teeth, are at risk from smoking.
Tobacco smoke can cause lots of damage to the teeth, mouth and gums with problems such as bad breath, gum disease, tooth staining and oral cancer being prevalent in smokers. Teeth can quickly become stained by tobacco smoke due to the presence of tar and nicotine which can greatly impact the aesthetics of a smokers smile. Staining can range from a light yellow tinge to a full-blown brown discolouration – the latter of which can be extremely hard or even impossible to remove. Nicotine can absorb into the enamel of teeth and in some cases can even penetrate the tooth right through to the root, in cases such as this staining is permanent. For lighter smokers, the discolouration and staining can often be polished out, although it can be very hard to remove stains from in-between teeth.
Gums are also adversely affected by smoking as smokers build up much more bacterial plaque than non-smokers. This build up can lead to gum disease and the infected areas can often fail to heal properly due to the lack of oxygen in smokers bloodstreams. This causes the condition to deteriorate which can lead to bigger problems such as eventual tooth loss.
Mouth cancer is also a big risk for smokers with three-quarters of all mouth cancer patients being smokers. Mouth cancer, as with all cancers, can be life threatening and if not recognised and treated promptly may seriously put your life at risk. Cigarette smoke contains over 4000 different harmful chemicals, at least 80 of which are cancerous. It is very important for smokers to regularly visit their dentist for check-ups to have a chance of spotting potential problems such as mouth cancer early.
What Can Be Done For Smokers?
Discolouration of teeth and Bad Breath– For discoloured or stained teeth many dentists recommend a special type of toothpaste. There are ‘smoker’s toothpastes’ on the market which can help to reduce staining although these special toothpastes can be rather abrasive and should be used carefully. A good scale and polish from your dentist or hygienist every 3-6 months can also reduce staining although deeper, darker stains may not be possible to polish out. To tackle bad breath in smokers, mouthwashes can be used. Although only a short-term solution, they can be very effective at masking bad breath.
Gum Disease – Regular check-ups with your dentist will ensure that early signs of gum disease can be treated quickly before the situation gets worse. To prevent gum disease, brushing your teeth using a good toothpaste brand should be undertaken at least twice a day. Flossing regularly is also important as it helps clean plaque from between teeth. The early stages of gum disease can often be rectified by regular brushing using toothpaste which will destroy plaque and let your gums heal. In more severe cases, your dentist may also recommend using an anti-bacterial mouthwash. Abstaining from tobacco during this time is highly recommended as it will help blood oxygen levels increase which is important for the healing process.
Mouth Cancer- In order to spot and treat mouth cancer, it is of great importance to attend check-ups with your dentist regularly. Unfortunately, Mouth cancer has a 50% mortality rate which is mainly due to the condition not being detected and dealt with quickly enough. Your dentist will fully check your mouth, gums and soft tissues for irregularities which, if found, can be dealt with quickly.