Smoking and Oral Health

Smoking is associated with a very wide range of health problems ranging from lung cancer to delayed wound healing. Plenty of anti-smoking campaigns highlight the harmful affects of smoking and work hard to encourage people to give up smoking.

We all know smoking effects not only the smokers but the people around them due to passive smoking. Hence, plenty of non-profit organizations and government funded campaigns have cropped up which aim to get people to give up smoking by highlighting the harmful effects of smoking on general health.

What these campaigns tend to ignore is the effect of smoking on dental health. Neither there exists any campaign nor any awareness in the general public on the harmful effects of smoking on dental health. Cigarette smoke is as good as poison to the oral cavity.

Let us discuss the harmful effects of cigarette smoke on dental health.

Nicotine and Tar are two major components of cigarette smoke. These chemicals have a tendency to stick to the teeth as residue. This heavy residue is responsible for discoloration of the teeth. The discoloration can range from yellowish to dark brown. When a cigarette is being smoked, not all the smoke is being expelled out. Some of the components remain in lungs and some in the oral cavity. Nicotine and Tar are heavy and get settled on the teeth as dark residue. This discoloration is not easily removable. Vigorous brushing can not help the cause either. However, brushing with the tooth whitening pastes in the market tends to lighten the dark stains.

Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer but we can’t ignore the fact that over 90% of oral cancer patients are also smokers. This can be attributed to the carcinogenic capacity of cigarette smoke. A study published in the Journal of Periodontology also proves direct correlation between the number of cigarettes and incidence of oral cancer. People who smoked less than a half a pack a day were three times more likely to get oral cancer and people who smoked more than one and half packs each day were six times more likely. Cigarette smoke contains many carcinogens (cancer causing agents).These irritate the oral cavity and initiates cancer formation.

Smoking also hampers wound healing and hence is responsible for failure of many dental procedures. The success of many oral surgeries is affected to the delayed wound healing caused by smoking as smoking hinders the body’s defense mechanism.

Recent studies have pointed an increased success of dental implants in non-smokers than in smokers.

A very obvious and annoying effect of smoking is bad breath. The contents of the cigarette smoke cause a typical bad breath known as smokers breath. It also causes Halitosis which is the common bad breath. This is because cigarette smoke causes drying of the mouth and hence reduced salivation. Saliva is an effective anti-microbial agent which fights bad breath. Reduction of salivation causes the bad breath causing bacteria to thrive.

Smoking is held responsible as a causative agent for many cases of advanced Periodontitis.

With so many harmful effects of smoking on oral health, it is best to call it quits today.

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