How does smoking affect my teeth and gums

Dr Oh Xue Ling ( BDS Adelaide)

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Most people are well aware that smoking is detrimental to health, especially to your lungs and heart. However, most are unaware of how tobacco effects your oral health.

What are some effects of smoking seen in the mouth?

  1. Gum disease

Smokers are more likely to develop gum disease compared to non-smokers. Smoking affects the type of bacteria present in the mouth and decreases the body’s ability to combat gum infections.

Some of the signs and symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Red, swollen gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Receding gums
  • Bad breath and pus formation between teeth and gums

2 Oral Cancer

It has been shown that smoking has a high correlation with an increased risk of oral cancer, especially if the smoker drinks alcohol as well.

Oral cancer can develop in any part of the mouth, including the lips, cheeks, tongue, just to name a few.

Early detection of oral cancer can be difficult as it can be painless or easily mistaken for other conditions such as a toothache. The more advanced the cancer, the greater the spread and the lower chance of cure, hence it is important that it is detected early via regular oral examinations.

Some signs and symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • Mouth sores that bleed easily and do not heal
  • Lumps around cheek, throat or tongue
  • White or red patches around the gums, tongue, cheeks
  • Difficulty in chewing or swallowing food
  • Numbness of some areas of the mouth
  • Loose teeth , or changes in the bite of the teeth

3 Decrease in wound healing

Smoking results in delayed wound healing, and can also increase the risk of infection. This is very important especially after extraction of a tooth or minor surgery in the mouth. Smoking after such procedures increase the chances of a dry socket, which is a painful condition where the socket does not heal.

4 Bad breath

Smoking dries up the mouth, and is one of the most common cause of bad breath. Furthermore, it also affects the ability to smell and taste.

5 Increase in dental decay

Tobacco adversely affects the production of saliva, and increases the risk of dental decay as the protective effects of saliva is diminished.

6 Stains

Tobacco can also cause stains on teeth, more so than the regular coffee and tea, resulting in unaesthetic looks. 

What can I do to decrease these adverse effects of smoking?

1 Decrease the frequency of smoking, or smoke cessation

The most effective way is to quit smoking, or moving towards the goal of smoke cessation, such as decreasing the frequency and quantity of the number of sticks per day, or seeking tobacco alternatives.

2 Good oral hygiene

Maintaining a good oral hygiene is important, both in keeping dental decay at bay and improving bad breath.

This includes twice daily brushing, flossing, and brushing your tongue. Rinsing mouth after smoking

3 Rinsing your mouth with water after a smoking session can reduce the amount of stains on your teeth, and also improve your breath.

4 Regular dental check ups

Professional cleaning can remove stains, improve teeth and gum health as well as check for any signs and symptoms of oral cancer.

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