Smoking: A Danger to Oral Health

By Izzie • Health • 19 Jun 2015

It’s common knowledge that smoking can have a number of negative effects on personal health. Due to the nature of how smoking is done, it’s only expected that the mouth is one of the more heavily impacted areas. However, many people don’t realize the amount of damage and disease that can come from chronic smoking. There are ways a smoker can minimize the effects of smoking from doing any additional damage through proper oral hygiene, but it’s important to be able to recognize the serious problems that can ensue.

What Smoking Can Do to Your Oral Health

Any form of tobacco use can greatly increase the risk of developing leukoplakia which can lead to throat, lung and oral cancers. Gum disease can occur when a buildup of plaque targets tissue that makes up the gum and that irritation can be exacerbated by smoking. Gum disease can also lead to tooth loss, tooth decay and weak enamel.  Stained teeth, tartar buildup, bad breath, and receding gums are vanity issues that also occur with smoking and can impact overall image and oral health. Smokers are four times more likely of developing these problems than non-smokers.

Tips to Improve Oral Hygiene

The most straightforward and effective way of minimizing these risks is to quit smoking, but for many that’s easier said than done. While most people should visit their dentist twice a year, those who smoke should consider more frequent checkups. This will allow your dentist to catch any adverse health effects in the early stages to prevent more serious damage. Smokers can also benefit from the more frequent professional cleanings. Additionally, smokers should amp up their own oral care more so than non-smokers. Flossing, brushing and mouth wash should be used at least twice a day, if not more depending on how much the individual smokes.

Smokers should try to avoid foods and drinks that can cause further staining or erosion. Coffee, soda, and wine are all drinks that can stain teeth and should be used in moderation. Foods that are highly acidic or contain a high amount of food dye should also be eaten scarcely because they can cause enamel breakdown and cavities.

Lastly, smokers should learn how to perform self-checkups on a regular basis. Smoking increases the occurrence of sores, lesions, bleeding of the gums/mouth, swelling, and throat or tongue lumps. If the sores persist after two weeks, it is a sign of a more serious problem. Being able to detect these symptoms early can prevent additional damage and allows you more time to consult an oral hygienist.

About the Author: Danielle is a guest contributor from Dr. Daniel J. Derksen, DDS, PLLC, a local Lansing dentistry that specializes in personalized oral health care and services in Lansing, Michigan.

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