Quitting Smoking? Here are the Oral Health Benefits
Congratulations are in order if you were one of the many people who gave up smoking this year! Although you might have quit for the benefit to your overall health, the positive effect on your oral health is worth learning about.
How Does Smoking Affect Oral Health?
Smoking can affect your oral health in numerous ways. The most obvious include staining your teeth which is because of the nicotine and tar in tobacco, and of course, it’s well known for causing bad breath. However, there are some much more serious side effects which include gum disease and possibly tooth loss, and smoking increases your risk of oral cancer.
How Does Smoking Affect Gum Health?
Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for gum disease, and a huge percentage of smokers have this problem. Gum disease causes quite noticeable symptoms in people who don’t smoke, and which include gums that frequently bleed when you brush or floss your teeth, and they tend to look red and more swollen than usual. In fact, in smokers, gums will often look quite firm and deceptively healthy because these common symptoms are suppressed or masked.
Healthy gums need good circulation because blood carries essential nutrients and oxygen to the gums while transporting away toxins. This allows your gums to fight infection and to heal more efficiently.
Healthy gums need good circulation because blood carries essential nutrients and oxygen to the gums while transporting away toxins.
Unfortunately, when you smoke, nicotine causes the blood vessels to narrow and makes it more difficult for new blood vessels to grow. This limits the amount of oxygen and nutrients available to your gums, making them more vulnerable to infection and healing is slower. At the same time, the gums may appear a nice healthy pink and won’t look at all puffy because of the restricted blood supply.
Also, smokers are more likely to have more of the harmful bacteria that cause periodontal or gum disease because smoking inhibits the production of antibodies that fight these bacteria. This means that any signs of gum disease tend to progress more rapidly in smokers.
As the gum disease worsens, the chemicals in tobacco can break down the connective tissues and cause cell damage, affecting the structures that support teeth. Although there are lots of different treatments that can help people with periodontal disease, these are less effective for smokers because of the way smoking interferes with the healing process.
Smoking and Oral Cancer
Most people know that smoking can cause lung cancer and throat cancer, but it’s also one of the main causes of mouth or oral cancer too. This is one of the reasons why our dentist, Dr. James Cadigan regularly screens patients for oral cancer, and this is especially important if you do smoke. An oral cancer screening is quick, non-invasive and entirely painless and can detect the very first signs of changes to the tissues in your mouth.
Now for the Good News!
It isn’t all gloom and doom as once you stop smoking your body soon begins to repair itself. The longer you manage to quit, the lower your risk of developing gum disease. A survey in the United States discovered that ex-smokers who had quit smoking for 11 years had nearly the same risk of developing periodontal disease as non-smokers.
Giving up smoking may not be easy, but it is achievable and enormously worthwhile, and there is lots of help available. Over-the-counter nicotine gum or patches can help relieve symptoms, or your GP may have some valuable advice.
If you can’t face giving up smoking just yet, it’s even more important to make sure you visit us regularly here at Chatham Dental Centre. Regular dental checkups and hygiene appointments can detect early signs of disease and will help you to maintain a healthier mouth. Why not schedule an appointment right now?