The dangers of smoking cigarettes have been widely known for a long time.
Tobacco products wreak havoc on your entire body.
But when it comes to smoking and oral health, the consequences are particularly alarming.
Your mouth is one of the first places that the detrimental health effects of smoking show up.
It’s easy to spot a long-time smoker just by looking at their teeth!
Here are just a few ways smoking damages your oral health.
How smoking harms your oral health
Stained, yellow teeth
The nicotine and tar in tobacco quickly turn your teeth an unsightly yellow color.
Some heavy smokers have teeth that are almost brown.
Smoking increases the production of bacterial plaque in the mouth, putting you at higher risk for gum disease.
It also reduces the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream, impairing your gum’s ability to heal itself.
This combination of increased dental plaque and reduced healing ability means smokers are at high risk for gum disease.
To make matters worse, once a smoker has gum disease, the disease progresses much quicker and is more difficult to recover from than in non-smokers.
Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
Since smokers get gum disease at much higher rates than non-smokers, tooth loss is common.
The toxic chemicals in cigarettes have a clear link to lung, throat, and mouth cancers.
Over time, the poisons in cigarettes can damage or alter your cell’s DNA.
When DNA is damaged, a cell can go haywire and begin growing out of control, leading to cancerous tumors.
Smoking also weakens your immune system, making it harder for your body to kill cancer cells.
Not only do tobacco products leave their odor on your breath, but they also severely dry out your mouth.
Without a healthy saliva production, your mouth struggles to break down food and rinse away leftovers, leading to halitosis – a fancy medical name for stinky breath!
The increased buildup of bacteria and gum disease also contributes to a not-so-fresh mouth.
Is vaping safer than smoking cigarettes?
Given the clear dangers of cigarette smoking and oral health, it’s tempting to look for less harmful options, especially if you’re trying to quit.
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, were first introduced into the mass market in the U.S. in 2007, and have since exploded in popularity.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine – the same addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars, and tobacco products – as well as flavorings and other chemicals.
The user inhales the aerosol into their lungs the same way they would a cigarette.
E-cigarettes are aggressively marketed as a “safe” new alternative to conventional tobacco cigarettes, especially amongst young people.
But is it true? Are e-cigarettes actually safe?
We say: Not so fast.
Don’t be fooled by e-cigarette marketing claims
The truth is, e-cigarettes are relatively new, and there is a lot we don’t know about their long-term health effects.
Much of the marketing and product development around e-cigarettes is heavily targeted at young people…Opens in a new window to article about youth e-cigarette use…, while greatly downplaying any health concerns.
While many marketers claim that e-cigarettes are a “safe” alternative, scientific studies suggest otherwise – they may even be worse for your oral health than smoking traditional cigarettes.
As a culture, we even refer to the act of inhaling e-cigarettes differently (it’s “vaping,” rather than “smoking”), further perpetuating the myth that e-cigarettes are harmless.
While much improvement has been made in reducing tobacco use in younger generations, the rise of e-cigarettes threatens to reverse that progress.
Millions of teens falsely believe e-cigarettes are perfectly safe, leading to their new status as the most commonly used tobacco product among young people.
In fact, the FDA recently called youth e-cigarette use an “epidemic,” launching a nationwide public service campaign…Opens in a new window to article about FDA campaign… targeting teen vaping.
Vaping and your oral health
Just like smoking cigarettes, vaping negatively impacts your entire body, but is particularly alarming when it comes to your oral health.
One major area of concern is the chemicals in e-cigarettes, especially the ones that create the flavoring that is so enticing to teens.
A recent study…Opens in a new window to article about the study… found that e-cigarette flavoring “chemicals induced hundreds of genetic changes in the bronchial epithelial cells,” and impaired their ability to function properly.
Furthermore, the study noted that these chemicals cause severe lung disease.
While most e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco, they still contain the highly addictive and harmful chemical nicotine.
Nicotine creates many of the same harmful effects on your teeth and gums as smoking, including increased risk of:
- Gum disease
- Bad breath
- Tooth loss
- Receding gums
- Tooth decay
- Dry mouth
- Grinding and tooth damage
Smoking and oral health – the bottom line
Both smoking cigarettes and vaping are harmful to your oral health.
In either case, quitting can be incredibly challenging. After all, both contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance.
However, you’re much likely to be successful in quitting if you can get professional help.
If you’re trying to quit, we’re here for you! Let us know.
We can refer you to some great resources, and as your oral health advocate, be a powerful ally in your journey to a smoke-free lifestyle.
Dr. Bradley Olson is a trusted cosmetic and implant dentist in Waldorf, MD. He has years of experience in making sure your smile not only looks goods but also functions properly.
Contact our office to learn more:
We offer dental care in Waldorf, MD, and surrounding communities of La Plata, Mechanicsville, White Plains, Hughesville, Charlotte Hall, Upper Marlboro, and Accokeek.