Today is National No Smoking Day in the UK, so here at JL Dental Care we thought now would be an apt time to talk about the effects smoking can have on your oral health, and why quitting smoking will benefit your mouth, teeth and gums. If you do smoke, we hope this blog will get you one step closer to kicking the habit, and if you don’t- amazing! Still, giving this blog a read might give you the information you need to encourage a friend or family member to quit smoking.
It’s safe to say that the fact that smoking is bad for your lungs is pretty much common knowledge, but less people are aware of the multitude of harmful effects that smoking and consuming tobacco has on your mouth! Looking purely at the aesthetics, the nicotine and tar found in cigarettes can discolour your teeth, leaving unsightly yellow or brown patches on the tooth surface which can be impossible to remove without professional help. If you’re a heavy smoker however, discolouration of your teeth is the least of your mouth’s problems.
Tobacco is the largest risk factor for oral cancers, on par with alcohol. Mouth cancer is largely a lifestyle disease, meaning that the majority of cases are related to the use of either tobacco or alcohol. Now’s the time for some statistics: firstly, approximately 90% of mouth cancer sufferers are tobacco users, compared to 87% for lung cancer. Smokers are six times more likely than non-smokers to develop mouth cancer which rises to a whopping 50 times if you are a user of chewing tobacco, and studies have shown that cancer recurrences are 30% more common if the patient continues to smoke after the first cancer is treated.
In addition, whenever cigarette smoke is taken into the mouth, saliva flow is immediately disrupted- this causes your mouth to dry out significantly, and a dry mouth is exactly the environment that harmful bacteria thrive in. Saliva is actually extremely important in maintaining a healthy oral ecosystem, and a lack of it means that bacteria can stick to your teeth and gums with ease. Dry, bacteria filled mouths are a leading cause of a host of oral diseases including gingivitis and periodontal (gum) disease and tooth decay, and because of this, smokers are three to six times more likely to develop these diseases. Bad breath (halitosis) is also a common symptom of dry mouth, and a lack of saliva also means that plaque can form far quicker on your teeth. If this plaque is not removed daily, it can harden into tartar, a substance that is not only unsightly but can irritate and swell your gums, leading to- you guessed it- gum disease.
We hope all this information, and the statistics included, encourage you to reduce your tobacco consumption or cut cigarettes out entirely, but we don’t want to scare you!
We believe that the best thing for your oral health would be to quit smoking completely, but we’re not blind to the struggles that come with giving up. Simply halving your daily tobacco intake will reduce the risk of all these issues and maintaining a regular oral hygiene routine will go some way to preventing plaque build-up and bad breath. If you’re serious about quitting, schedule an appointment with your GP as there are loads of great quitting aids available on the NHS. If you have any oral health issues, smoking related or otherwise, don’t hesitate to book an appointment with us at JL Dental Care- just call 020 8958 0136.