Most people know smoking is hazardous to your health, especially concerning the lungs and heart. Unfortunately, less attention is placed upon smoking’s negative impact on oral health. Not only does smoking leave brown stains and sticky tar deposits on teeth or dentures, it also contributes to halitosis [bad breath]. But those are the least of the issues.
Smoking is a major risk factor in periodontal [gum] disease. For example, it’s common to see red inflammation on a smoker’s palate [roof of the mouth] from the high temperatures generated by cigarettes, cigars and pipes. This is actually the inflammation of the salivary gland openings and leads to a condition called sialadenitis (reduced saliva flow due to damage to the salivary duct).
Twenty years of research show that smokers are two to three times more likely to develop periodontitis [bone loss] and tooth loss is much more prevalent in smokers than non-smokers. Studies also show a higher rate of dental implant failure for smokers.
When it comes to the cause of most oral cancers, smoking is the “smoking gun.” Of the 9,000 deaths a year in the U.S. from oral cancer, tobacco use accounts for 75% of those tragic, preventable figures.
Even second-hand smoke poses a danger to oral healthcare, especially for children. For example, smoke breathed in by children can affect the development and eruption of their permanent teeth, a process that usually begins between three and six years of age.
The good news is that “kicking the habit” greatly reduces the risk of developing oral cancer. Studies show that, after 10 years of cessation, a former smoker’s risk or oral cancer is reduced to that of non-smokers.
While nicotine creates a formidable addiction to contend with, there are a number of ways to stop smoking without experiencing extreme withdrawal symptoms. For example, nicotine patches, nicotine gum and nicotine sprays or inhalers greatly ease the suffering associated with nicotine addiction.