It’s common knowledge that smoking has adverse effects on our health. The risk of lung cancer is high in smokers. Emphysema, COPD, heart disease—the list goes on and on. But you may not be aware that smoking can have detrimental effects on your oral health. And it’s not just nicotine-stained teeth and bad breath, either. The real cost of smoking as it relates to your gums, teeth, and oral health goes much deeper.
Smoking Can Lead to Gum Disease
Smoking has an inflammatory effect on the gums. If left untreated, gum inflammation can lead to significant damage to the gum tissue. Diseased gums are a haven for bacteria. Damaged and diseased gums lead to loose teeth and consequently, tooth loss. Ultimately, there can even be bone loss in the jaw. Plus, serious infections, including ones that affect the lining of the heart, can result when the bacteria from diseased gums enters the bloodstream.
Smoking introduces numerous toxins into the mouth, which doubles the risk of gum disease in smokers. People who chew tobacco may be hardest hit with gum disease. Notably, gum disease in people who smoke can be tricky and harder to treat.
Smoking Can Lead to Smoker’s Keratosis
Smoking can produce suspicious-looking white patches on the roof of the mouth. These indicate a condition called stomatitis nicotina, or smoker’s keratosis. Research is incomplete, and there is still is more to learn about this condition. It’s not thought to be dangerous in itself but is a significant risk factor for oral cancer. One theory suggests that the white patches may be the result of inflamed mucous glands in the mouth. The fact that it’s precancerous is a significant concern.
Smoking Can Lead to Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is getting a lot of attention. Studies show that about 90 percent of people with oral cancer use tobacco. Oral cancer affects any of the tissues in the mouth and throat. Indicators of oral cancer can be caught early during an orthodontic or dental exam and include:
- Unusual white patches
- Persistent sores or pain
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Swelling and numbness
- A sensation of having something lodged in the throat
Smoking and Orthodontic Treatment
Smokers undergoing orthodontic treatment should be particularly cautious. Smoking can endanger oral health and therefore, successful treatment. Unhealthy oral tissues caused by tobacco don’t provide a solid base to support teeth being moved into their proper positions. It can cause treatment time to extend longer than usual. Plus, smoking can stain teeth around both orthodontic brackets and invisible aligners.
It’s Never Too Late To Quit
The upside to this is that quitting smoking can dramatically reduce the risk of any of all the oral problems mentioned above. Even those who have been smoking long-term can significantly improve their chances of avoiding adverse oral health complications by quitting. Smokers may also want to schedule regular dental exams to track their oral health.
And if you’re considering braces or other orthodontic treatment, consider quitting or cutting down on tobacco use as well. Don’t hesitate to contact a qualified orthodontist, like from John Redmond Orthodontics, to get answers to questions about how smoking affects orthodontic treatment.