By now most people are aware that smoking and using tobacco products has a negative impact on your lungs and heart. The risk of developing lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and other conditions increase dramatically for smokers. However, it may not be as widely known that smoking and tobacco products are bad for your oral health as well. Dr. Robert Gauthier of Russell Street Dental Associates in Worcester, MA wants to educate you on the dangers of tobacco to your oral health.
How Does Tobacco Affect My Teeth?
Smoking cigarettes slows down your ability to heal due to the effects of nicotine in your body reduces blood flow. Additionally, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff and unprocessed tobacco leaves (used as cigar wrappers) all contain tiny particles that are abrasive to tooth enamel. When chewed and mixed with your saliva and chewed, an abrasive paste is created that wears down teeth over time. This means that your teeth and gums wear down faster but heal more slowly.
For this reason, smoking and tobacco use also limit the effectiveness of many dental treatments. The reduced blood flow, increased bacteria and inflammation can make it difficult for your mouth to heal and fully accept the treatments used to replace lost teeth. For example, implants and bridges might not be an option for a tobacco user because your surrounding teeth and jawbone may have weakened from infection or decay and aren’t strong enough to support these procedures. Research shows that due to slow healing and weaker jawbone tissue, the implant failure rate for smokers was almost 16 percent, compared to just 1.4 percent in the general population of nonsmokers.
Tobacco Use Makes Dental Treatment More Difficult
First of all, smokers are twice as likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers. This is due to the constant irritation of your gums from smoke and that the nicotine stunts your immune system’s ability to fight infection. Therefore, using tobacco can cause a simple infection to become something worse like an abscess or even sepsis. Also, smokers that are being treated for gum disease have a harder time dealing the symptoms of gum disease. Smoking also hampers the growth of blood vessels, which means less blood flow to the gum tissues which slows healing after oral surgery.
Does Chewing Tobacco Harm Teeth?
Smokeless tobacco (also known as snuff or chewing tobacco) is a primary cause of cancers of the mouth, lip, tongue and pancreas. Like cigarettes, chewing contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals.
Issues caused by smokeless tobacco include:
- Risk for cancer of the voice box, esophagus, colon and bladder due to swallowing toxins in the juice created by chewing.
- Irritation of your gums, which can lead to gum (periodontal) disease.
- Increased risk of tooth decay as sugar is often added to enhance the flavor of chewing tobacco.
- Tooth sensitivity and erosion due to sand and grit from smokeless tobacco wearing down teeth.
Restore Teeth After Tobacco Use
If you’re a smoker, you can begin by coming to terms with the fact that tobacco dependence is an addiction disorder. All aspects of nicotine addiction, including both the psychological and physiological ones must be treated to successfully break the habit. Oftentimes, it’s not uncommon for smokers to make several attempts at quitting several times before succeeding. If you’re a smoker, work with both your medical doctor and your dentist to find a strategy for quitting that can help you be successful.
Ultimately, the effects of smoking and using tobacco on teeth can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and pose a challenge with restorative dentistry. For more information or help restoring your teeth from the destruction caused by tobacco use, schedule with Dr. Gauthier of Russell Street Dental Associates in Worcester, MA by calling (508) 687-6579 or schedule online today.