Home Health & Wellness Dental Expert Discusses Smoking’s Oral Impact on World No Tobacco Day

Dental Expert Discusses Smoking’s Oral Impact on World No Tobacco Day

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Friday 31st of May is “World No Tobacco Day”, an annual event organised by the World Health Organization that aims to inform the public of the dangers of smoking and using tobacco products. 

Over the past few months, smoking and its dangers, particularly among the younger generations, have become a widely debated topic after the UK gGvernment pledged to eradicate smoking as part of a new bill in April.

But while many of us are aware of the impacts of smoking on our health, many may not be aware of how it affects our gums and teeth as well.

Ahead of the awareness day, Dr Smita Mehra, principal dentist at The Neem Tree Dental Practice, outlines exactly how smoking and tobacco products can affect your oral health in the short and long term, as well as tips to protect your teeth. 

“When we talk about the impact of smoking on our health, often the dangers tend to focus on the impact on the lungs, heart, and even skin. Yet what smokers and vapers often fail to recognise, is that the associated risks of such habits start in their mouths.

“Tobacco products, no matter how they are ingested, can have a variety of detrimental and irreversible effects on oral health.”

1. Impact your teeth and gums

First and foremost, tobacco products containing nicotine, like cigarettes and vapes, can have a detrimental effect on your teeth and gums that can leave your mouth in poor shape. This is because tobacco products are filled with toxic chemicals that seep into your gums, traumatising and severely affecting the gums and even the dental bone in which your teeth sit.

This leaves the mouth more vulnerable to infection, which is often one of the main contributors of gum disease. 

Plaque buildup from tobacco can also turn into tartar, which can cause your gums to inflame and recede, exposing the roots of your teeth, and leading to chronic problems like tooth and bone loss. This can then lead to expensive solutions to replace missing teeth, like implants, bridges or dentures. Nothing is as good as keeping your own natural teeth and gums healthy.

2. Increases your risk of oral cancer 

Most people are aware that smoking or using tobacco products increases your chances of lung cancer, but it can also put you at a higher risk of mouth/oral cancer. In fact, approximately 25% of oral cancers in the UK are linked to smoking.

When you smoke or use vapes, you risk severely damaging not only your heart and lungs, but also your mouth, tongue, and lips, too. This is because the harmful chemicals in tobacco products damage the cells in the mouth.

Oral cancer can have many dangerous consequences beyond your mouth and teeth, including disfigurement, loss of teeth, and even death. 

3. Tooth decay becomes a problem 

Nicotine can have severe effects on tooth decay – perhaps something that isn’t as well known. When you smoke, the chemicals in tobacco mix with your saliva, causing its PH levels to drop, and become less effective at neutralising acids.

As a result, this creates the perfect environment for tooth decay because the bacteria in your mouth can more easily damage the enamel on your teeth. Tooth decay is extremely serious, as it can lead to problems such as cavities, tooth loss and even more serious health problems in the future. 

4. Damaged implants and surgery

Though we all know that smoking and the harmful chemicals in tobacco products can impact our health, what some people may not know is that it can also have an impact on recovery from oral surgery.

Toxic chemicals in tobacco products can reduce blood flow to the gums, making it much harder for your mouth to fully recover after dental surgery.

Not only that, but it can also lead to implant failure, because the titanium post cannot fuse with the bone properly, as well as post-surgery problems like infections and longer recovery times. Implants need healthy bones to remain sturdy and successful.

5. Causes bad breath 

One of the most obvious ways smoking and tobacco products impact your oral health is by causing bad breath, also known as halitosis.

While vapes have tried to combat this issue by masking the smell with fruity or menthol flavours, the harmful chemicals in tobacco inherently change the chemistry in your mouth, leading to the build-up of sulphur, which has a consistently bad smell.

6. Reduces your mouth’s natural defences 

Tobacco products harm your oral health by breaking down your mouth’s natural defences. When you smoke or vape, it slows down saliva production in the mouth. 

As salvia is one of your mouth’s main shields against bacteria from food and drink, without it, you are much more vulnerable to infection and gum disease. 

7. Increases dry mouth and tooth sensitivity 

Smoking can cause you to experience a dry mouth or have increased tooth sensitivity. This is because tobacco products cause your salivary glands to not produce enough saliva.

Though this might not seem that serious, when your mouth is dry, it can’t wash away bacteria properly, making you more prone to tooth decay and cavities. Without saliva production, your mouth can’t break down acids as well, making your teeth much more sensitive. 

How to quit tobacco products and protect your teeth

The good news is, if you quit smoking or stop using tobacco products this World No Tobacco Day, you can increase your chances of looking after your oral health. There are plenty of ways to do this, such as:

  • Using gum lozenges or patches to replace nicotine. 
  • You can join a group that can offer advice and support when quitting, and encourage you to keep going if you experience any moments of weakness. 
  • There are also plenty of apps, websites, and forums to help you quit and track progress. 
  • Your dentist can also be a big help when trying to quit smoking, as they can give you advice to fit your individual needs. 

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