Lighting your next cigarette? You may be literally smoking your smile away.
“Think of your mouth as the gateway to your health,” says Dr. Leslie Renee Townsend, DDS., Dental Director for Jefferson Dental Clinics. “Oral health is often overlooked in the overall conversation about health, however, a majority of major chronic diseases begin in the mouth.”
The Centers for Disease Control recognizes several hundred of the 7,000 chemicals in cigarettes to be extremely toxic. Of the 42 million adults in the US that regularly smoke cigarettes, nearly 21 million are women.
The more superficial oral health effects of smoking cause bad breath, tooth discoloration, and development of leukoplakia-grey or white patches in the mouth. The more permanent effects of cigarettes don’t just dull your smile, they can cause permanent damage.
Smokers experience elevated rates of gum disease, as cigarette smoke breaks down the soft tissue and bone that anchor teeth into the jaw. As jaw tissue and bone erode, pockets develop around the teeth where bacteria and plaque accumulate.
“Prolonged erosion can lead to tooth decay and eventual loss, as the pockets around each tooth deepen and the tissue and bone wear away,” says Dr. Townsend.
Many smokers opt for dental implants to replace lost teeth from years of smoking. Dental work such as crowns and bridges are affected by bone recession, and smokers that seek implants and oral surgeries may have a lower success rate and a longer recovery period than non-smokers. Because smoking restricts the blood flow to the gums, the healing process for smokers is thought to be slower and more difficult.
Every hour at least one person dies from oral cancer. Oral cancer is one of the most alarming concerns for those who smoke. Smokers are seven times more likely to develop oral cancers than non-smokers, and the risk increases with prolonged tobacco use. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 70 of the chemicals found in cigarettes cause cancer.
“Dental exams can help manage symptoms and screen for conditions, however the best way to combat the effects of smoking is to stop all together,” says Dr. Townsend. “Addiction can be very hard for some to overcome. Speak with your dentist about your oral health risks.”
Twice annual dental exams are extremely important for diagnosing possible oral health conditions, before noticeable symptoms occur. A dentist can also further explain how smoking will affect teeth and gums. Moreover, preventative care, including a plan to quit smoking, is a sure way to reduce the risk of developing symptoms.
For more oral health education, tips and facts visit www.jeffersondentalclinics.com.