We’re all well aware of the negative impacts that smoking has on your general health, such as cancer, breathing and respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, not to mention the addictive nature of nicotine and the high cost of cigarettes.
But, did you know smoking has a significant effect on your teeth and oral health too? Aside from yellow teeth that can be a common aesthetic issue associated with cigarettes, smoking can also significantly increase the risk of several other diseases, cause complications with your dental treatment, and affect your appearance in other aspects.
Find out below the five ways smoking affects your teeth and gums, and how you can reverse some of the impacts sooner rather than later!
- Gum disease
- Oral cancer
- Dental treatment failure
- Discoloured teeth
- Premature ageing
1. Gum disease
Gum disease or Periodontal disease can occur as a result of an accumulation of plaque and tartar on the teeth, which irritates the gums if it builds up to the gum line. This leads to swelling of the gums, which can cause sensitivity or bleeding when brushing.
If left untreated, gum disease can cause irreversible damage in the form of receding gums or even tooth loss, as a bacterial infection can enter the gum tissue and destroy the underlying bone supporting the teeth.
Smoking can also lead to gum disease by reducing the blood flow to the teeth and surrounding gums and decreasing saliva production. Saliva helps wash away the bacteria from the teeth that can lead to gum disease.
Smokers are up to 5 times more likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers, and also gum treatment is normally not as effective, which is why quitting smoking is highly recommended to prevent this disease.
If you experience any of the following symptoms of gum disease, it’s important to visit the dentist so they can promptly treat the issue:
- Red, swollen gums
- Inflammation of the gums
- Gums that are sore to touch
- An excessive buildup of tartar that you cannot remove with your toothbrush
2. Oral cancer
Oral cancer is also known as mouth cancer, and can occur in the lips, tongue, cheeks, palate and floor of the mouth. This is the most concerning oral health issue associated with smoking, as 75% of people with oral cancer are smokers. Smokers are more at risk of developing oral cancer if they are also heavy drinkers.
Early detection is key to recovery when diagnosed with oral cancer, so it’s critical you visit your dentist as soon as possible if you notice the potential symptoms of oral cancer.
Symptoms of mouth cancer include:
- Ulcers in the mouth or on the lips that persists beyond 7 – 10 days, especially if they’re not painful
- Red or white patches in the mouth
- Swelling inside the mouth
- Dentures abruptly not fitting correctly
3. Dental treatment failure
Smokers have a higher risk of developing ‘dry socket’ after tooth extraction or wisdom tooth removal. This is an extremely painful condition where a blood clot has not successfully formed to heal the wound, which is supposed to protect exposed bone and nerve endings and prevents food from entering the wound.
Pain and complications are also more common for smokers after other oral surgery in addition to wisdom tooth removal. Smoking can also reduce the mouth’s ability to heal itself when ulcers or other oral injuries occur.
Smokers also face issues when undergoing dental implant treatment, as the implants have a lower chance of integrating with the jaw, resulting in added stress, money and time wasted. For this and many other treatments, your dentist will recommend quitting smoking before beginning, for at least the duration of the treatment to ensure the greatest opportunity for a successful outcome.
4. Discoloured teeth
The most obvious and visible effect on the oral health of smokers is the staining of the teeth caused by the nicotine and tar in cigarettes, which makes teeth appear yellow, brown, or generally darker.
The most effective way of removing the stains caused by smoking is professional teeth whitening.
In-chair teeth whitening at the dentist offers the fastest results as it can be performed in a 1 hour dental appointment and can make your teeth up to 8 shades lighter. The longevity of the result is reduced for smokers though, sometimes lasting only a third of the time as the outcome experienced by non-smokers if the patient continues to smoke and continuously re-stain the teeth.
The best option that will sustain results over the long-term is to pair an in-chair whitening session followed by maintenance with a take-home teeth whitening kit, which is custom made by your dentist to fit your mouth perfectly. A lower concentration gel may be most effective, causing less sensitivity and can be worn overnight to bleach deep intrinsic stains further by having prolonged exposure on the teeth.
In addition to teeth bleaching, getting your teeth regularly cleaned at the dentist every 6 months can help remove built-up stains, plaque, and tartar, and reduce further staining.
Nicotine and tar can also stain the tongue and cause bad breath. There are a number of ways to stop bad breath and keep your mouth as fresh as possible!
5. Premature ageing
Not only do cigarettes affect the appearance of your teeth, but also the appearance of the rest of your face. The continuous “o” shape made by the mouth when you smoke a cigarette can cause premature wrinkles to form around the lips and surrounding skin.
To treat the wrinkles that have already formed, facial injectable treatments such as anti-wrinkle treatment or dermal fillers can be used to smooth out the lines. Our Gold Coast dental clinics offer injectables as a part of a comprehensive approach to improving the appearance of your smile and the frame surrounding it.
Where to get help to quit smoking
If you’re ready to take the steps to improve your dental and general health, as well as reduce the risks of developing the issues outlined above, there are a number of people and organisations who can help you quit smoking. These include:
- Quitline – Call 137 848 to speak with counsellors and access resources to help you quit
- My QuitBuddy – A free mobile app that lets you set personal goals and monitor your progress
- Quit for You – Quit for Two – A mobile app for pregnant women to help quit smoking
- Your doctor
- Your dentist or oral healthcare professional
Our highly experienced and compassionate dentists at Oasis Dental can help you take care of your teeth with a regular check-up and clean, professional teeth whitening, personalised treatment plans to allow for the most successful outcomes which take into consideration your smoking habits, as well as advice and assistance with quitting to help you achieve optimal oral health! Get in touch with our team today.