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Smoking’s Effect on your Oral Health

Smoking is bad for your health.  This is a fact Americans have finally accepted after a long and arduous campaign of PSA’s,  tax legislations, and constant badgering from friends and relatives.  These health crusades have been so effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that the rate of smoking adults in America fell to its all-time low of 15 percent in 2015.  2015 saw the biggest one-year decline in smoking rate in 20 years!

This is not only great news for the general health of Americans but also for their teeth.  Cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are now seen as the cancer causing death packets that they are and for good reason.  It is estimated that smoking is the cause of death in more than 480,000 deaths a year.  Therefore, it’s hard to be concerned over any other damaging aspect of smoking after that statistic.  It’s a bit like complaining about too many people at the beach after you’ve been attacked by a shark.

However, not enough people realize the corrosive effects smoking can have oral health.  Periodontists play a similar role in your oral health that an ER doctor would over a gunshot wound.  Simply, if you’re seeing a periodontist, things have gone wrong somewhere in your mouth. Smoking is most likely culprit. According to David A. Albert D.D.S of Columbia University, “Studies have found that tobacco use may be one of the biggest risk factors in the development of periodontal disease.”

(ORAMD Blog)

Periodontal disease may not sound terrible, but it absolutely looks it and even worse, absolutely smells like it.  This picture above is a relatively tame example of what it can look like, believe me, it gets worse.  Other than looking ghastly and smelling foul, periodontal disease can cause the following: receding gums, loss of teeth, bone loss, and gum destruction.  These lovely effects, of course, don’t include mouth or throat cancer, yellowing teeth, and Leukoplakia(Warning: potentially disturbing image), which creates white or gray patches on the tongue or cheek.

Clearly, tobacco is just as bad for your oral health as it is for the rest of you.  However, we at Rizzo Dental Group understand that quitting isn’t easy.  So here are some tips to avoid the litany of oral health issues if you smoke.

  • Do not skip regular check-ups.  Smokers, as we covered, are more likely to develop a number of oral diseases.  By seeing a dentist regularly smokers may avoid some potential problems.
  • Use stiff bristles.  Bristles must be stiff and strong enough to scrape off the stains left by tobacco.
  • Use toothpaste specifically designed for smokers, as well as mouthwash.
  • Do oral checks at home.  If sores around the face, neck, and mouth persist after a few weeks, it may be a sign of larger issues. Check for bleeding, swelling, lesion and lumps.  Discolored patches that linger should also be reported to your dentist.

Quitting is by far the best option but if you must smoke, be sure you and your dentist are on the same page.