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Most people know that smoking causes cancer, but not everyone is aware of the effects that smoking and vaping have on the teeth and mouth. Smokers are more likely to have gum issues, lose teeth, suffer from infections, and develop oral cancers. Stopping smoking reduces the risk of all of these things. Everyone needs to visit the dentist regularly, but it’s even more important for smokers and vapers.
How Does Smoking Impact Oral Health?
Smoking has a big impact on the overall health of someone’s mouth. The most common issues for smokers are oral cancer, gum disease, smoker’s keratosis (where the tissues of the mouth turn white), dry socket after losing teeth, tooth decay, tooth loss, issues with taste, and problems healing from dental procedures or mouth injuries. Another common issue for smokers is bad breath. These issues mean smokers and vapers very rarely have white, even teeth because of the damage done by their activities.
- Smoking and Oral Health
- Smoking, Gum Disease, and Tooth Loss
- The Effects of Smoking on Your Teeth and Gums
- Smoking and Your Oral Health
- Smoking’s Effect on Teeth
What Is Gum Disease?
Periodontal disease is also known as gum disease. It’s an infection that destroys the bone that connects teeth to the jawbone. One cause of gum disease is dental plaque. Plaque is the result of food debris and bacteria on teeth. When plaque is left on teeth, it hardens and becomes tartar or calculus. Calculus irritates the gums, which means it’s easier for them to get infected. Gum disease has two distinct stages, known as gingivitis and periodontitis. If it’s not treated by a dentist, periodontitis can result in losing teeth. Losing teeth can result in issues with chewing food and even with speech. Teeth also help shape the lower part of the face, and losing teeth can also cause bone loss in the jaw.
- Periodontal (Gum) Disease
- Gum Disease Information
- Dental Plaque
- Dental Plaque and Tartar: Causes, Prevention, and Removal
Smoking and Gum Disease
People who smoke between one and ten cigarettes each day are five times more likely to develop gum disease than someone who doesn’t smoke. The chances of getting gum disease are even higher for heavier smokers. One reason is that smokers are more likely to develop dental calculus. It’s also harder to get a proper diagnosis of gum disease for smokers. Smoking reduces blood flow to the gums, so it’s less likely that a smoker’s gums will bleed, which is a symptom of gum disease that typically makes people visit the dentist to receive treatment. Smokers with gum disease are also more likely to develop acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis, which results in a lot of pain and a horrible smell and taste that won’t go away. But the good news is that smokers who quit smoking can lower their risk of developing gum disease to the level of someone who has never smoked.
- Smoking and Gum Disease
- The Impact of Smoking on Subgingival Microflora: From Periodontal Health to Disease
- Your Circulation and Cigarette Smoking Do Not Mix
- Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis (ANUG)
Smoking Delays Healing
Another impact that smoking and vaping have on overall health is that they make the immune system less efficient. Smokers who need to have teeth removed or who suffer injuries to the mouth will experience longer healing times. Smokers are more likely to develop dry socket, which is a very painful condition, after having teeth removed. One reason that smokers are more likely to develop dry socket is that they don’t follow their dentist’s recommendations about avoiding smoking during the healing process. Smokers also report more pain and discomfort after dental procedures. And dental implants are less likely to work for smokers.
Health Risks of Vaping
Vaping is a broad term that is used to describe a few different smoking behaviors. The use of both e-cigarettes and water pipes is described as vaping. Many users think that vaping is healthier than smoking traditional cigarettes, but that’s not true. Vaping still involves inhaling harmful chemicals, including heavy metals, nicotine, and other substances known to cause cancer. Early research indicates that vaping causes mouth inflammation, which can lead to gum disease and other periodontal issues. Vaping also often leads to “vape tongue,” which is a condition where vapers lose their sense of taste.
- What Is “Vape Tongue”?
- Vaping and Oral Health
- Know the Risks: E-Cigarettes and Young People
- Vaping: What You Need to Know
Preventing Dental Issues in Smokers
The best way for smokers to prevent dental problems is to stop smoking. Smokers can ask their dentist or doctor for resources to help them quit or reach out to a national helpline. Even just reducing the amount of smoking or vaping will help prevent further damage to the mouth. Another good idea is to brush the teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day. Smokers, even more than other people, need to floss daily. Regular dentist appointments can also help to catch issues early and prevent tooth decay and gum disease. And drinking lots of water helps prevent dry mouth, another risk factor for gum disease.