It doesn’t take a genius to know that smoking is bad for you. Generations of research have shown how smoking (even on an infrequent basis) can have devastating effects on human health. The risks associated with smoking are well-known, yet studies suggest that as many as 15 out of every 100 adults still smoke cigarettes today.
Whichever way you look at it, that’s a lot of people making a direct contribution to their own early deaths.
Of course, quitting smoking is easier said than done. Nicotine addiction is an addiction like any other, which is considered more of a disease or illness than a lifestyle choice. As anyone who has successfully quit smoking will attest to, it is a transition that is almost always more difficult than they could have expected.
Tobacco vs Teeth and Gums
The ill effects tobacco can have on the body, in general, are known and acknowledged by most people. But what often goes overlooked is the extent to which tobacco can have a devastating impact on oral health.
Smoking on a regular basis (or infrequently) can and will take a toll over time. Some of the effects smoking has on the teeth and gums are visible, while others manifest out of sight. Though in all instances, the long-term term damage caused could be irreparable.
Visible Effects of Smoking on Oral Health
When you think about it, your teeth and gums bear the brunt of the damage of every cigarette you smoke. Long before it works its way into your lungs and the rest of your body, the smoke comes into direct contact with your teeth, your tongue, and your gums.
The toxins contained in each and every cigarette immediately and permanently damage the teeth. This can lead to a wide variety of clearly visible effects, including but not limited to yellow or brown teeth, bleeding gums, tooth decay, dry mouth, chapped lips, the development of plaque, and so on.
Not only are issues like these unsightly, but they also pave the way for serious oral health problems. Examples of these include tooth loss, irreparable damage to the tooth enamel, the requirement for root canals to combat infections, and more.
The simple fact of the matter is that when smoking tobacco on a regular basis, it is only a matter of time before it takes a toll on your teeth. Even with all the high-strength mouthwash and specialist toothpaste for smokers in the world, there is nothing that can safeguard your teeth and gums from the devastating effects of tobacco smoke.
Less Visible Effects of Smoking on Oral Health
Just because you cannot see the damage being done by the tobacco or you smoke does not mean it isn’t happening. It simply means that your teeth and gums are succumbing to the kind of damage that isn’t quite as immediately noticeable.
For example, research suggests that smokers are around 65% more likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers. Gum disease has a tendency to be invisible at first, manifesting in the form of inflammation to the gums, followed by bleeding, and gradual recession of gum tissues. Over time, gum disease can result in foul breath, tooth loss, infections, and other major oral health problems.
Dry mouth is another chronic condition associated with smoking. Inhaling hot and dry smoke inhibits the mouth’s ability to produce saliva, which is its first line of defence against germs and bacteria. The less saliva your mouth produces, the more it becomes a breeding ground for a long list of nasties.
Of course, there is also the heightened risk of oral cancer to take into account. Smokers have been found to be exponentially more likely to develop a huge range of potentially deadly cancers than those who don’t smoke. The early indications of mouth cancer can be practically undetectable (without a close-up inspection conducted by a dentist), and therefore have a tendency to go overlooked.
Oral Health and Hygiene for Smokers
There are plenty of specialist products on the market for smokers, which claim to be able to reverse staining, combat bad breath, and generally get to work on the issues associated with smoking. The issue is that in the vast majority of instances, they do no such thing – nothing of the sort.
Order your dentist can advise you on the most appropriate oral health and hygiene regime to suit your lifestyle. A regime which will, of course, begin with kicking the habit for good.
The most important tools at the disposal of anyone looking to keep their teeth and gums in good condition are a dentist-recommended electric toothbrush, your preferred type of dental floss (perhaps even a water-flosser), a dentist-approved toothpaste, and a good antibacterial mouthwash. Simply by following the basic rules of good oral health and hygiene, you will give your teeth and gums the best possible shot at staying healthy for life.
Even so, there isn’t a product on the market that can provide high-level protection from the effects of smoking. Nor is it possible to reverse the damage done by cigarettes, without undergoing corrective surgery.
Help for Quitting Smoking
In the UK, the NHS provides a range of free services for people looking to quit smoking for good. Smoking cessation products can often be provided on prescription, which could save you money.
There are different services available for smokers in England, Scotland, and Wales, provided across most localities. The following numbers are provided by the NHS for those looking to find out more information:
- Call the free Smokefree National Helpline on 0300 123 1044
- Call the free Quit Your Way Scotland helpline on 0800 84 84 84
- Call the free Help Me Quit helpline on 0800 085 2219
Alternatively, book a consultation with your GP at your earliest convenience, and they will point you in the right direction of an appropriate service to help you quit for life.