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Everyone is well aware of the health risks associated with smoking and using tobacco. While many advertisements and health advocates condemn smoking for various health reasons, such as cancer or heart disease, dental problems arising from tobacco use is generally not thought of. However, tobacco products cause several dental concerns such as stained teeth, bad breath, and gum disease. Arguably the worst of the three mentioned, as gum disease is the gateway to many other health risks. Let’s look at each of these factors and learn how tobacco causes each of them.
Your tooth’s enamel is one of the hardest substances in the human body, however, it is still no match for the two main ingredients, nicotine and tar, found in tobacco. Nicotine is a colorless liquid that only turns a yellowish brown color when introduced to oxygen. As you inhale a cigarette or use smokeless tobacco, the nicotine seeps into the small pores on the enamel. These pores are so small that a toothbrush cannot get into them. As the nicotine sits there, it will become plaque and then eventually tarter. This is why using a vape pen is still equally harmful to your teeth, as most vapes contain levels of nicotine. The other major ingredient found in tobacco is tar and it is equally responsible for yellowing teeth. Tar is the residue from burning tobacco. The tar contains over 7,000 chemicals and it’s these chemicals that will eventually cause major medical problems.
The “smokers breath” that is associated with tobacco use is from the chemicals lingering in the mouth and lungs. It can be hard to remove these chemicals as they can stay in your mouth for several hours. These chemicals also allow bacteria to thrive in your mouth, which can lead to a foul odor. There are products on the market that target these specific strains of bacteria to help neutralize them, however, they will never be completely gone and every time you use tobacco they will continue to multiply. The accumulation of bacteria will also aid in rapid tooth decay.
This is probably the worst side effect of smoking as gum disease or periodontal disease is associated with other health problems. Heart disease, diabetes, and cancer have all been linked to periodontal disease. This particular disease is a bacterial infection and preys on the gums and other soft tissue. Due to the abundance of bacteria found in a tobacco user’s mouth, it creates a perfect environment for this disease to thrive. While there are ways to prevent the spread of gum disease and reverse its symptoms, smokers will have a much more difficult time healing and re-generating gum tissue then non-smokers. This is due in large part to the fact that tobacco causes a decrease in blood flow which will slow the process of tissue growth. Tobacco users are also more likely to lose more teeth then non- tobacco users who have periodontal disease because tobacco also slows bone regeneration. If the gums and bone cannot heal then there is nothing there to hold the teeth in place, and they will start to fall out.
While there are many health factors that are brought on by smoking, yellowed teeth, bad breath and gum disease are the main dental concerns. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or have questions about tobacco use and your dental health, give us a call today. We have helped many patients who were both current and former smokers have better dental health. Let us help you live a more healthy life.