The dangerous health effects of tobacco have been documented and studied in American medicine since at least the mid-twentieth century. Smoking and other forms of tobacco use can have a range of serious consequences in the mouth alone.
The Health Effects of Tobacco
Of course the health effects of tobacco extend far beyond oral health. Smoking or smokeless tobacco, dip or snus, increases your risk of stroke or heart attack, as well as the obvious range of respiratory diseases. But since chemicals in cigarettes and chewing tobacco come directly into contact with the teeth, tongue, and gums, the oral health effects of tobacco use are some of the most common and widespread. The worst of these oral effects are life-threatening oral cancers, but other conditions can be serious as well.
Halitosis, or bad breath, is sometimes physically harmless (though it can definitely seem pretty harmful to your social life). Bad breath can also be an indication of bacterial infections that can become more dangerous over time. Smoking or tobacco chewing can lead to buildup of chemicals in oral tissues, which can exude the odors that cause halitosis. Smoking also dries the mouth, which can aid the growth of odor-causing bacteria.
Unsightly yellowing teeth, the result of nicotine and tar found in tobacco, are largely a cosmetic concern, though chemicals found in cigarettes can eventually begin to break down tooth enamel as well. Whitening teeth is an option, but if continued tobacco use can lead to a range of dental problems that stem from weakening of the enamel from overuse of teeth whitening products.
The more nicotine and tar there is in your brand of choice, the more yellow or brown your teeth will become. Choose wisely – or choose to quit.
Loss of Taste and Loss of Smell
Cigarette smoking can actually deaden taste buds and smell receptors. Once these receptors are affected, the ability to enjoy food and drink can become deadened, along with the sense of smell. Even when the strong and bitter taste of nicotine isn’t directly overriding the flavors in food, the sensory enjoyment won’t be what it once was.
Sores in the Mouth
Smoking decreases the level of saliva product, which leads to dry mouth. Since saliva is instrumental in keeping a healthy balance in bacterial levels, the chances of bacterial infection increase in the oral cavity once that balance is altered. For instance, small abrasions of the teeth and gums are more likely to become open sores when the mouth is host to an unhealthy number of infections bacteria.
Receding Gums, Bone Loss, and Tooth Loss
When bacteria are thriving in the mouth, tobacco use can cause plaque buildup on teeth. Between plaque and active bacteria, infections of the gums can begin as gingivitis and progress to more serious forms of periodontal disease that cause receding gums and eventual bone loss in the jaw.
Gums that are weakened from smoking, plaque, and bacterial infection can recede from the teeth, leaving an opening of direct access by bacteria. The resulting bone disease can cause the bone structure to recede from teeth, so that they become loose and will eventually fall out or need to be pulled by a dentist.
Greater Risk of Infection Following Dental Treatment
After gum treatments or dental implant surgeries, a healthy oral environment is absolutely essential for proper healing. If smoking continues to dry out saliva so that bacterial growth is encouraged, you’re far more likely to contract infections that can lead to further complications and greater health hazards.
The risk of infection after surgery is so elevated compared to non-smoker populations that
many dentists refuse to place implants until the patient has stopped smoking. Obviously, your best option is to stop smoking long before you need this level of care.
To help keep the chemistry of your mouth in balance, consider using antioxidant-rich products like those offered by PerioSciences. Phloretin and ferulic acid, two of our active ingredients, can help improve the antioxidant balance of your mouth. Our AO ProVantage products and AO ProRinse help soothe dental tissues, while AO ProVantage Blast is formulated specifically for smokers. To learn more about antioxidants in oral care, fill out the form on our blog. Also, be sure to connect with PerioSciences on Facebook and Twitter.