Due to numerous public service announcements and the legally-mandated Surgeon General’s warning on packs of cigarettes, most people are aware that smoking and using tobacco products has a negative impact on your overall health. Smoking increases the risk of developing lung cancer, breathing problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other conditions. However, it is less widely known that smoking and tobacco products are also bad for your mouth and teeth.
How Does Tobacco Affect My Teeth?
Nicotine from cigarettes slows down your body’s ability to heal, meaning that in addition to slower healing from injuries, your teeth will wear down faster. Using other tobacco products such as snuff and cigars subjects you to this as well as being abrasive to tooth enamel. When tobacco products are chewed and mix together with your saliva, they create an abrasive paste that erodes your tooth enamel and once enamel is gone, it’s gone for good.
Smoking and tobacco use also impede healing from and the effectiveness of many dental treatments. The effects of smoking on your mouth include reduced blood flow, as well as increased bacterial growth and inflammation, all of which can cause restorative dental procedures to fail.
Implants and bridges in particular might not be an option for a tobacco user because your surrounding teeth and jawbone may have weakened from infection or tooth decay and are no longer strong enough to support these procedures. Dental research shows that due to slower healing and weaker jawbone tissue, the implant failure rate for smokers is up to 16 percent, compared to just 1.4 percent for nonsmokers that have had the procedure.
Treating gum disease is harder.
In addition to being more likely to develop gum disease (periodontitis), people who smoke have a more difficult time fighting off infection. Using tobacco products can turn a simple infection into an abscess or even sepsis. The symptoms associated with gum disease are worsened with smoking which increases dry mouth and sensitivity to pain. Since smoking causes blood vessels to constrict, less blood reaches the gums, slowing down transport of compounds that restore gum tissue.
What about chewing tobacco?
Smokeless tobacco (also known as snuff or chewing tobacco) is not exempt from these concerns as it causes cancers of the mouth, lip, tongue and pancreas. Like cigarettes, chewing tobacco 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.
What can I do?
Quit as soon as you can! However, you should not be discouraged if it takes you several attempts to quit before you find success. If you’re a smoker, you must understand that tobacco and nicotine dependence is an addiction, and there are resources such as counseling and medication available to help you. Consult with your doctor to develop a plan that works for you.
Ultimately, the effects of smoking and using tobacco on teeth can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and cause complications for restorative dental treatments. For more information or help restoring your teeth from the destruction caused by tobacco use, schedule with Dr. Alla Brown and Dr. Amanda Newberry of Lanier Family & Cosmetic Dentistry by calling (678) 359-4707 or schedule online today.