Smoking negatively affects your general as well as oral health. It can not only cause lung damage or cancer but also affect your teeth and gums. Smoking effects on teeth may be more harmful than you can imagine. Also, frequent smoking can damage your teeth in such a way that most dental treatments may not work, which could further exacerbate the issue.
A] Different Ways Smoking Damages Your Teeth
1. Tooth Discolouration
Smoking stains the enamel of your teeth making them brittle over time. Once you start smoking, it does not take long for your teeth to turn yellow. However, tooth discolouration or yellow teeth is not the only problem. Your gums are also affected due to repeated exposure to nicotine. Depending on the severity of stains, the dentist will suggest different teeth whitening treatments and one or two sessions can make a difference.
2. Bad Breath
Smoking leads to bad breath, which is a social embarrassment. The nicotine smell can linger in your mouth for a long time and lead to a dry mouth that can cause halitosis. Heavy nicotine intake can also lead to gum disease, tooth loss, and it increases the risk of oral cancer.
Further reading: What Causes Bad Breath
3. Increased Loss of Bone Within the Jaw
Jawbone allows you to speak and chew properly while providing a definite structure to your face. Excessive smoking can cause the jawbone to recede and lose its density over time which can lead to tooth loss. Bone loss within the jaw affects many aspects of oral health and can lead to added complications. Apart from the loss of bone, smoking can lead to tissue loss in the jaw and many people are not even aware of this condition until it shows up in an X-ray.
4. Inflammation of the Salivary Gland
Regular smoking can cause inflammation of the salivary glands leading to increased plaque build-up and dry mouth conditions. It causes mouth odour due to insufficient saliva production. Apart from swelling, you’ll experience pain in the jaw or a painful lump under the tongue. The pain might increase when you eat something. Visit the dentist at the earliest if the pain is persistent and he’ll recommend a treatment based on your condition.
5. Delayed Healing Process After Tooth Extraction
As smoking reduces the oxygen level in the blood, it may affect the healing process. For many, healing may be difficult after tooth extraction or oral surgery. Smoking also tends to suppress the host’s immune response affecting the healing function that defends against infection. Smoking and delayed healing after a tooth extraction is common, so to improve recovery, you need to quit smoking.
6. Build-up of Tartar and Plaque
The chemicals in a cigarette affect the saliva flow in the mouth, making it easier for oral bacteria to stick to gums and teeth. This increases the build-up of plaque and tartar – two main causes of tooth decay and gum diseases. The tartar on the teeth also leads to periodontal gum disease.
7. Risk of Developing Oral Cancer
Smokers are seven times more at risk of developing oral cancer than non-smokers. The chemicals in tobacco can cause genetic changes in cells of the mouth cavity, which can lead to the development of oral cancer. Not only oral, but cigarettes also cause 90% of lung cancers in the world. To minimise the risk, quit smoking which will also promote good oral hygiene and gum health.
8. Lower Success Rate of Dental Implants
Tobacco hurts the outcome of most treatments including dental implants. The failure rate of implants in smokers is high compared to non-smokers. They also suffer from the problem of marginal bone loss or peri implants. To maximize the success rate of dental implants, a dentist may ask you to stop smoking for at least one week before the process. It is also recommended to quit smoking for two months after the implant to increase the success rate.
9. Risk of White Patches in the Mouth Increases
Smoking increases the risk of white patches in the mouth. In some cases, it’s also an early sign of oral cancer. Avoiding tobacco can help reduce white patches. White patches may appear on the tongue or at bottom of the mouth and persistent smoking can cause grey patches for some. White patches are generally non-cancerous, but sometimes they can be cancerous. If you notice white patches in the mouth, then consult with your dentist immediately.
10. Gum Diseases and Black Gums
With habitual smoking comes the risk of plaque that may cause gum diseases or black gums. The increased plaque loosens the soft tissue and the jawbone attachment to the teeth allowing plaque and bacteria to spread down to the roots. Once the infection spreads, it can also harm your general health.
11. Interferes With Blood Circulation
Smoking affects blood flow through arteries in two ways. Nicotine – an addictive chemical in cigarettes – causes your blood vessels to constrict, thereby limiting the amount of blood they carry and losing their flexibility. This makes the heart work harder, which leads to higher blood pressure. Smoking also harms the veins with artery-clogging plaques that weaken the cell layers on the inner side of the blood vessels, which increases the risk of heart attacks in most cases.
B] Ways to Quit Smoking
1. Nicotine Replacement Therapy
Nicotine is a habit-forming substance that makes it difficult for most people to quit cigarettes. Nicotine replacement therapy can help with the severe withdrawal symptoms & cravings and most people were able to quit tobacco with NRT therapy. However, note that smoking while undergoing NRT therapy can harm your body. So, it’s important to understand how this therapy works before you commit to it.
2. Lean on Family and Friends
The journey to quit smoking is tough as dealing with cravings are hard. Here, leaning on your loved ones can make the process a tad better. Talk to them and speak out your apprehensions. Or take up a creative hobby (painting, dancing) with your friends.
3. Divert Your Mind
To keep your hands off the cigarette pack, you must divert your mind; so indulge in things that you love. If you love music, go for music therapy or learn to play a musical instrument. If you love cooking, make your favourite dishes. Whenever you feel the need to smoke, divert your mind to deal with cravings. Talk to your physician to know about the different ways you can quit smoking to lead a healthy life.
4. Don’t Give Up
Life is all about trying till you succeed. It is not easy to quit smoking, certainly not if you are a chain smoker. But, you need to have a strong will. Even if you don’t succeed at first, you’ll overcome the habit one day by being persistent.
5. Speak to Your Doctor/GP
Many people are not aware that there are medications available, which can help you quit smoking. So, speak to your doctor/GP who’ll prescribe the required medications.
Smoking causes many dental and health issues including stained teeth, weakened immune system, tooth loss, mouth ulcers, and oral cancer. Consultation with your dentist is essential in your journey to quit smoking as they will provide proper guidance.
- What is the process to clean my gums from smoking?
Regularly brush, floss and use a mouthwash. There are DIY tartar solutions you can use for prevention and clean between your teeth using different teeth cleaning techniques. Also, gently brush your gums to keep them clean.
- How do you get rid of smoker’s gums?
In addition to flossing and brushing, opt for professional teeth cleaning. Your dentist may also suggest some deep cleaning tricks below the gum line. In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove tartar and plaque.
- Can I protect my teeth while smoking?
Increase your fluid intake and use an antibacterial mouthwash. Chew sugarless gum or peppermint. Regular flossing and brushing are a must, plus make regular visits to the dentist for a cleaning session.