The implications of tobacco use on your oral health are far reaching. Most people know of the general risks tobacco can have, but when considering dental care, the effects are numerous and sometimes fatal.
Are Some Tobacco Products Safer Than Others?
No. All tobacco products are risky to use. The side effects of tobacco in cigarettes, pipes, and smokeless tobacco (chew) all heighten the risks of gum disease, cancer, and cause other oral concerns.
Oral Health Concerns
Some of the dental problems that result from tobacco use are:
- Bad breath
- Bone loss within the jaw (alveolar bone loss)
- Increased plaque and tartar buildup
- Increased likelihood of leukoplakia
- Increased risk of gum disease
- Increased chance of oral cancers
- Inflamed salivary glands
- Reduced effectiveness of oral surgery procedures and recovery
- Yellowing of teeth
Nicotine and other toxins in tobacco increase the levels of food that dissolve into your teeth and gums. The chemicals stain tooth enamel, giving your teeth a yellow coloration, and causes foods and sugars to further damage the tooth’s natural coating. Good oral healthcare practices can help reduce this effect, but the onset of periodontal disease, also known as gingivitis, is still a major problem for tobacco users. This can lead to cavities and if not corrected early, painful and expensive root canals or dental implants will be required.
The Journal of the American Dental Association published the results of a 23-year long study that indicated tobacco use corresponds to an increase in bone loss within the jaw, called alveolar bone loss, and tooth loss. This can result in expensive and often painful procedures requiring dental implants and dental bridges. It also increases chances of developing oral cancers, in both the mouth and throat, which can be fatal.
Reducing Risks and Improving Oral Health
For tobacco users, the best solution is to quit. This can be done through a variety of methods including:
- Nicotine patch
- Nicotine gum
- Or simply quitting cold turkey
Whether you choose to quit or not, additional dental assistance is available. Everyone should visit their dentist in Cambridge at least twice a year, but tobacco users should consider more frequent cleanings and inspections.