If you smoke, you already know it’s bad for you. It can cause emphysema, heart problems, and various types of cancers. What you might not know is that in addition to putting your overall health in danger, it also creates mayhem inside of your mouth. There are both cosmetic and health concerns when it comes to the way smoking impacts your teeth and gums. Check out these issues that you might run into as a smoker, as well as some tips on mitigating the damage.
Smoking can interfere with the way the cells of the gums live and function. This can make you more susceptible to gingivitis (early stage gum disease) and also periodontitis (later stage gum disease). If you notice bleeding when you brush or floss, or if your gums are red or swollen, it’s likely that you have gingivitis. If left to progress without treatment, your gums can become infected, and this can lead to loose teeth and eventual tooth loss.
Smoking also affects the way tissues heal, so any minor abrasion in your mouth is more likely to become infected if you smoke. It can be something simple and otherwise fairly unnoticeable, like a minor bite on the inside of your cheek or a canker sore that hasn’t healed properly. You can also get infections at the gumline or at the apex of the root of a tooth. Also, if you have oral surgery, such as an extraction or gum surgery, you are at an increased risk of infection and poor healing if you smoke.
You probably already know that smoking causes a range of cosmetic issues, like yellowed teeth and bad breath. Teeth may become badly stained, and infections or tooth decay can contribute to the bad breath associated with smoking.
Obviously, the best course of action is for you to quit smoking. If this is not an option for whatever reason, there are some other things you can do to mitigate some of the damage caused by smoking. First regular brushing and flossing is a must. You should also clean your tongue well and use mouthwash if recommended by your dentist. Since some foods (like coffee, wine, and dark berries) cause staining, avoiding them can minimize overall yellowing of the teeth. Seeing your dentist regularly can help, too; your dentist might recommend coming in every three or four months instead of every six months. This is particularly true if you have gum disease.
Talk to your doctor about ways to quit smoking if you’re having trouble. Also, let your dentist and hygienist know that you smoke so they can offer you advice for minimizing the impact on your teeth and gums.
Creative Commons image by Yana Lyandres.