The health risks of tobacco use are long known, and it should come as no surprise that smoking affects your oral health as well as your throat and lungs. The effects it can have on your mouth are widely varied, and they can range from something as simple as bad breath to serious conditions like oral cancer. If you are looking for a list of reasons to quit smoking, then the following list of conditions caused by smoking can serve as a starting point:
- Discolored teeth
- Bone loss in the jaw
- Increased plaque and tartar buildup
- Bad breath
- Inflamed salivary glands, particularly on the roof of your mouth
- Lower healing rate from oral injury or surgery
- Increased risk of leukoplakia, or discoloration of the mouth
- Increased risk of gum disease
- Increase risk of oral cancer
Many of these are very serious and can lead to you losing your teeth, such as gum disease. Others are potentially life-threatening if not treated early. Oral cancer in particular can be deadly. Gum disease and cancer may be two of the worst oral health problems smokers face, so we will go into a little more detail on each one.
Smoking and Gum Disease
Healthy gums will hold your teeth in place and protect the roots from infections. If the gums become infected by bacteria, then you may experience redness and swelling, bleeding, and painful chewing, which are all symptoms of gingivitis. Eventually, the gums may retract from the teeth, a condition called periodontitis.
Smoking contributes to gum disease in a couple of ways. First of all, it diminishes gum cell function by affecting blood flow, which is necessary for healing and getting proper nutrients. Secondly, smoking also lowers your immune system, thus making it more likely for bacteria to infect the gums. Studies have shown that smoking makes you seven times more likely to develop gum disease.
Smoking and Oral Cancer
Smoking cigarettes, pipes, and cigars all pump deadly chemicals into your body. Many of these chemicals cause genetic changes in cells, which leads to cancer. Since smoke travels through the mouth, throat, and lungs, using tobacco leads primarily toward mouth, throat, and lung cancer, and it is associated with a six times increase in the risk of developing oral cancer. When combined with heavy alcohol intake, this risk increases astronomically.
Some of the symptoms of oral cancer are:
- Swelling, lumps, or rough spots
- Random bleeding, numbness, or pain in the mouth
- Pain or numbness in the mouth or neck
- Sores or velvety white/red patches in the mouth
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Chronic hoarseness or sore throat
- Ear pain
- Changes in the way teeth fit together
If you notice any of these symptoms, and especially if they seem to have come out of nowhere, then contact a dentist immediately.
Dental Care Options
If you are looking for help restoring your oral health after a lifetime of smoking, then contact Lynn Dental Care today. Dr. Lynn and his staff have decades of experience with a wide variety of dental procedures, and we are committed to the highest quality care. For more information, don’t hesitate to contact us.