Oral health risks
For all the attention that respritory health receives when it comes to smoking, we must not forget to take care to mitigate oral health risks as well. The use of nicotine and tobacco may incite the development of serious dental issues. Firstly, smoking these substances weakens bones in the mouth. Tobacco and nicotine restrict blood flow to gum tissues, reducing the amount of oxygen in the tissues. This impedes the circulation of nutrients needed to maintain healthy bone structure. One of the outcomes is that healing takes longer after oral surgery. Smoking also weakens your teeth by contributing to enamel wear, making your teeth even more vulnerable to bacteria and toxins.
Secondly, smoking reduces your mouth’s ability to protect itself. It’s common for smokers to experience mouth dryness. This can be problematic as saliva is used to help wash away harmful bacteria that may cause infections. As a result, bacteria, tartar, or calculus buildup can occur more quickly in a smoker’s mouth. Left unattended, tartar or calculus buildup can cause gingivitis.
All of the above factors contribute to gums getting weaker and, eventually, tooth loss. You may notice tenderness, redness, a receding gum line, pain when chewing, loosening of teeth, and change in how your bite aligns. If you notice these symptoms, let your dentist know as they may indicate that you have gum disease. Symptoms of gum disease are not always noticible before it has become advanced, so even if you do not notice symptoms, it is especially important to have regular dental checkups as a smoker. Your dentist may be able to identify symptoms before you are able to find them at home. Other risks of smoking include oral cancer and leukoplakia, which is identified by white patches inside the mouth.
How to minimize damage
The best thing to do to prevent the above issues is to stop smoking cigarettes and stop the use of other tobacco products. Given this is not a viable solution for many people, here are some tips on how smokers can protect their teeth.
- Bacteria is able to develop more easily in a smoker’s mouth due to dryness, so the first step is to brush and floss regularly to remove the bacteria and prevent the buildup of calculus.
- Make sure that your toothpaste has fluoride.
- It is very helpful to use a mouthwash that can help kill any remaining harmful bacteria.
- Take care to preserve tooth enamel by avoiding acidic foods and excessive aggravation to the surface of teeth.
- There has not yet been a consensus on the topic, but some claim that e-cigarettes may be less harmful to oral health than cigarettes.
- Lastly, let your dentist know if you smoke. During your check-up they can look for signs of gum disease, oral cancer, and other issues common for smokers.