Smoking and Your Oral Health
When it comes to smoking-related health risks, usually lung cancer is what comes to mind. However, the damage caused by smoking is not limited to the lungs. Oral health can also be adversely affected by smoking. It doesn’t just stain your teeth or cause bad breath—there are some very serious potential consequences to your gums and other oral tissues when you smoke.
Smoking Damages Gums
Periodontal disease (also known as gum disease) begins with inflammation of the gums. Untreated gum inflammation can create extensive damage to gums and supporting bone tissues, and bacteria can spread from the mouth and end up in the bloodstream. Cigarette smoke adds hundreds of toxins when introduced into the mouth, which increases the risk of developing gum disease.*
Oral Cancer Risk
Oral cancer can affect the lips, cheeks, tongue, and throat. It may seem surprising, but nearly 80% of people who are diagnosed with oral cancer are also smokers. Some of the earliest symptoms of oral cancer include persistent pain in the mouth from open sores, white patches, difficulty swallowing or chewing, and swelling of the tissue. Fortunately, dentists can identify these early signs during a regular dental exam and check up.
The Dangers of Secondhand Smoke
Secondhand smoke can be hazardous to the oral health of everyone around the smoker. Besides the potential harm caused to the mouth and lungs, there can be other serious side effects of secondhand smoke. Young children and infants are particularly vulnerable, and they can suffer from asthma attacks, ear infections, and even SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome.)
Choosing to Quit Smoking
Even someone with a long history of smoking can greatly reduce their risk of health complications by choosing to quit. There are many resources to help those who are determined to quit smoking. Support from friends and family is very helpful, as is support from a counselor.
As your dental care specialists, we care deeply about your health. We encourage you to quit smoking and schedule a dental exam as soon as possible so that we can make sure your mouth gets (and stays) healthy.