The harmful effects of cigarettes are often linked to important topics like lung cancer and cardiovascular issues. But how exactly do they affect your dental and oral health?
As we inhale cigarette smoke, the chemicals and carcinogens fill our mouths. What is not removed through the nose or mouth as we exhale is absorbed in our gums and tissues. According to WebMD.com, these chemicals may affect the connection of bone and soft tissues to the teeth and interfere with the normal gum tissue cells. Dr. Robert Genco, D. D. S. and editor of the Journal of Periodontology, explains how the inhalation of tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to the gingival tissue, decreasing nutrients and making smokers more susceptible to infections like gum disease.
If you think back to the first time you ever tried smoking, you might have experienced a burning or tickling feeling in the back of your throat. This is because the smoke actually paralyzes or damages the cilia (tiny hairs that work to clean the bronchioles in your lungs) and the lung and bronchiole tissues become irritated.
With continued smoking, regularly functioning cilia decrease and increased mucus production begins. A hacking cough generally begins while the leftover functioning cilia are busy working overtime. This usually persists until the first cigarette paralyzes the cilia again and the cough suppresses.
Oral cancers have also been highly associated with cigarette smoking. The incidence in cancers of the lips, mouth, tongue, and throat steadily increase among smokers compared to non-smokers. Regular dental checkups with oral screening may help prevent the spread of any cancers, and minimize complications.
Along with these more serious alterations of our healthy tissues, smoking causes bad breath, teeth staining and decreases our sense of taste and smell. Tobacco causes two types of teeth staining. Initially a superficial brownish crud accumulates on the surface of teeth, which may be removed with professional dental cleaning, but will eventually soak into the teeth through porous holes and permanently stain the teeth.