Most people know that smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco is bad for their oral health, but many do so anyway. Perhaps it is because they wanted to look cool in front of their teenage friends and formed an addiction over the years, or maybe it’s because they find comfort in the act of smoking with a nice, warm cup of Joe. While we’re not here to judge, we do have some bad news for smokers: tobacco use is one of the biggest causes of many serious oral infections and diseases.
At Trillium Dental, we care about our patients’ oral health and do everything in our power to ensure that they are maintaining good oral hygiene habits between teeth cleanings at our Ottawa dental clinic. Our job is to ensure that you are receiving the best dental care possible, even if that means reminding you to use dental floss more often or to quit smoking. That being said, here are a few ways smoking cigarettes negatively affects your oral health.
INCREASED RISK OF PERIODONTAL DISEASE
One of the most significant impacts smoking has on your oral health is that it causes an increase in plaque and tartar buildup along the gumline, which eats away at the tooth enamel. Your gums need a smooth, clean surface to attach themselves to — otherwise, they can recede and become infected. Smoking and chewing tobacco accelerate the process of the tooth enamel breaking down, as the carcinogenic chemicals in these products aggressively attack the teeth and surrounding oral tissue. It is believed that these chemicals also interfere with the ability of gum tissue to function and protect the roots of the teeth, leaving them prone to infections like gingivitis, also known as early-stage gum disease.
Though the symptoms of gum disease are not always apparent at first, they will progress over time to include gum recession and puffiness, gum and tooth sensitivity, persistent jaw pain, and loose or missing teeth due to tooth decay and a deteriorating jawbone. There are many health risks associated with gum disease, and not all of them have to do with the oral cavity. In fact, periodontitis is also linked to serious health conditions like coronary heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and pancreatic cancer, as this infection can enter the bloodstream via swollen or bleeding gums and attack vital organs throughout the body. And, you guessed it — much of this can be avoided if you quit smoking and take good care of your teeth.
INCREASED RISK OF ORAL CANCER
Another common dental problem caused by cigarettes and chewing tobacco is an increased risk of oral cancer, which is a major cause for concern among dental patients who smoke. This, again, is largely due to the carcinogens in these addictive products, which can cause cancers of the mouth, throat, sinuses, and lungs, as well as pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, and countless other life-threatening diseases. The lungs and oral cavity are especially susceptible to developing cancerous cells, as they have the most direct contact with the carcinogenic particles when the smoke or tobacco juice rests on the teeth, gums, cheeks, throat, and lungs.
Because of this, it is not uncommon for chain smokers or long-time smokers and tobacco chewers to notice red and white patches (leukoplakia) cropping up on the inside of their mouths. Though this is not always an indicator of oral cancer (sometimes these are cold sores or canker sores), red and white mouth sores, lumps, patches, and mouth ulcers are all symptoms of a serious oral health problem. Of course, oral cancer is fairly easy to avoid if you are not genetically predisposed to the condition and do not use tobacco products. Fortunately, our dentists and dental hygienists include oral cancer screenings as part of our routine dental exams, so we may be able to catch the early signs before it progresses into a more serious problem. If we do notice signs of oral cancer during your dental cleaning, we’ll point you in the right direction for treatment.
SCHEDULE A DENTAL EXAM IN OTTAWA AT TRILLIUM DENTAL
At Trillium Dental in Ottawa, we work to ensure that each of our patients receives the best dental care possible through routine teeth cleanings and additional dental treatments when necessary. For smokers who have developed gingivitis or periodontitis, we offer a number of gum disease treatments, including root planing (tartar removal), gingival grafts, gingivectomies, and crown lengthening procedures.
In addition to periodontics, we also perform oral cancer screenings and restorative dentistry treatments, such as dental implants, dental crowns, and dental bridges, which aim to replace decayed or missing teeth. Whatever the case may be, our dentists are prepared to treat any patient who is suffering from the consequences of smoking on their oral health, even if that means referring them to an oral surgeon or an oral cancer specialist who can provide the appropriate treatment. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you are concerned about your oral health, or feel free to make an appointment with us online.