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Does smoking damage teeth and gums?

Although smoking rates continue to drop in New Zealand, about 15 per cent of the country currently smokes tobacco, according to the Ministry of Health. Whether you enjoy a regular smoko, you like to have a cigarette or two when you're out with friends, or you're actively trying to quit, it's important to understand the health risks associated with this habit.

Smoking tobacco, even in small quantities, can cause a wide range of debilitating health problems, ranging from lung and heart diseases to strokes. This should come as no surprise, since packaging for tobacco products contain warnings and gruesome images. Here, we'll delve into how smoking impacts your teeth and gums.

Plaque and tartar buildup

Saliva flow plays an important role in battling bacteria that sticks to your teeth and gums. Tobacco contains chemicals that inhibit saliva flow and creates an ideal environment for bacteria-laden plaque to thrive in your mouth. If allowed to build up, this plaque can harden into tartar, which requires professional dental care to clean away.

Tooth loss

If left untreated, this bacteria-laden plaque and tartar can lead to even more significant health problems, such as gum disease or periodontal disease. These diseases attack the roots of your teeth, causing your gums to loosen around the teeth. This loosening of the gums can potentially lead to tooth loss. On average, smokers lose more teeth than non-smokers, according to the Dental Practice Education Research Unit at the University of Adelaide.

Restricts blood circulation

Your blood brings necessary oxygen and nutrients to different parts of your body and carries away carbon dioxide. Just like other parts of your body, your gums need oxygen and nutrients as a defence against infections that can lead to gum disease. However, smoking restricts the flow of oxygen and nutrients, with smokers six times more likely than non-smokers of developing gum disease.

May cause oral cancer

Multiple studies have indicated a direct link between smoking tobacco products and the onset of oral cancer. While the level of risk might vary from one study to the next, they all share the same conclusion that tobacco is one of the most common causes of oral cancer. For instance, one study discovered that smokers accounted for 80 per cent of oral cancer patients, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.

Oral cancer can form on the tongue, gums, throat, or lips, showing up as ulcers. lesions, and small growths. In early stages, this can impair speech and chewing functions in those affected. In later stages, oral cancer may necessitate costly surgery to remove the growths or even large portions of your mouth.

The risk of developing oral cancer increases when smokers also drink heavily.

Teeth discoloration

In addition to the negative health risks associated with smoking, this habit will also cause aesthetic problems too. Constant smoking can discolor your teeth, staining them dark shades of yellow and brown. It will also lead to chronic bad breath. And while constantly eating mints and gum might seem like a good way to combat bad breath, it can actually make things worse since many types of gum and mints contain sugar, which can lead to tooth decay.

Additional oral health problems

Not only does smoking create oral health risks, stained teeth, and bad breath, it can also create additional impediments for effective dental treatment.

If you need to get a tooth extraction, poor dental health can make this process more difficult and painful. It can also lead to potential complications that hinder the healing process by not allowing your blood to clot properly.

Recovery for smokers takes much longer after gum disease treatment. The carbon monoxide from smoking decreases oxygen and nutrients needed to heal, making a full recovery nearly impossible or even leading to an infection.

Dental implants can also fail to take hold or remain in place when the implant recipients smoke.

How regular dental check-ups can help

If you've been smoking, now's the time to schedule a dental appointment and get your teeth cleaned. Not only does cleaning help keep your teeth and gums healthy, a dental visit can also stave off long-term health risks.

For example, you probably don't spend a lot of time inspecting the inside of your mouth. Who does? But this means you're also not actively looking for any of the symptoms associated with oral cancer. By the time these symptoms become noticeable, it might be too late to effectively treat the problem.

However, dentists know what to look for when you go for a check-up. They can spot any potentially cancerous ulcers or growths in their early stages. This allows for quicker treatment and the possibility of a more favourable prognosis.

Regular dental visits can help prevent damage to your teeth and gums caused by smoking, but only by stopping smoking can you eliminate these health risks.

To book an appointment contact the specialists at City Dentists today

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