Most people are now aware that smoking is bad for our health, it can cause many different medical problems, and in some cases, fatal diseases. A healthy smile is paramount for all adults and is often the first thing people notice about you. No one wants a smile that is dull, discoloured or emits bad breath. Did you know the effects smoking can have on your mouth, teeth and gums?

Teeth staining – The nicotine and tar in the tobacco can cause your teeth to discolour giving your teeth a yellow appearance, but over time, heavy smokers complain that their teeth are almost brown.

Gum disease – People who smoke are more likely to produce bacterial plaque which then leads to gum disease – a bacterial infection. Smokers have more calculus (hardened plaque) than non-smokers. The gums are affected because smoking causes a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, so the infected gums don’t heal. Gum disease causes inflammation around the tooth which destroys soft tissue. The gums begin to break down, causing them to pull away from your teeth, forming pockets that the bacteria grow in. As time goes on, the pockets get deeper, affecting the bone and other supporting structures, and in the later stages, tooth loss. Gum disease is still the most common cause of tooth loss in adults.

Dental issues – The effects of smoking on the gums can also cause recession meaning that any restorative work (i.e crowns and bridges) can then have uneven margins. Dental implants are more likely to fail in smokers because of poor bone healing. Smoking hinders healing in the mouth, so after a tooth extraction, smokers may find that it takes longer for the socket to heal.

Other problems – Smoking can cause a diminished sense of taste meaning that eating is not as pleasurable and affects our desire to eat food – which nourishes our body. Smoking can also hinder your immune system which can reduce the ability to recover after surgery.

Oral Cancer – About 90% of people with oral cancer have used tobacco. Smoking is one of the main causes of oral cancer, but it can also cause other cancers such as throat and lung cancer. Smokers are six times more likely than non-smokers to develop these cancers. Every year, thousands of people die from mouth cancer brought on by smoking. Smokeless tobacco can increase your risk of cancer, this can be aggressive due to the abundance of blood vessels and lymph nodes in your head and neck.

Mouthwashes may help disguise the problems associated with smoking, like bad breath, but this is only a short-term solution and will not cure the problem. You may also need more appointments with the dental hygienist.

When you fill out a medical history at the surgery, we will ask you if you smoke and we will review this at every visit. If you would like to quit smoking, set a date for yourself, and seek help from your dentist, GP or a counsellor. Even reducing the amount you smoke can help lower the risk of gum disease and other health problems – a recent study showed that people who had quit smoking 11 years ago had the same rate of periodontal disease as someone who had never smoked. It’s never too late to quit being unhealthy.

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