What You Need to Know About Oral Health and Smoking

By Therese Vannier, RDA/OMSA November 16, 2017

Every year, on the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation take part in the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout. It’s time to stop smoking.smoking

We’re all familiar with the wide range of health problems linked to tobacco use––heart and lung disease, stroke, diabetes, bronchitis, and emphysema, not to mention 480,000 deaths per year in the United States alone––but less commonly discussed are a host of oral health concerns. In addition to staining teeth 50 shades of brown, smoking is directly linked to:

  • Bad breath
  • Inflammation of the salivary gland openings
  • Increased build-up of plaque on the teeth
  • Irreversible loss of jaw bone
  • Increased risk of leukoplakia
  • Increased risk of developing gum disease––a leading cause of tooth loss
  • Delayed healing following oral surgery, tooth extraction, and periodontal treatment
  • Lower success rate of dental implants
  • Increased risk of developing mouth cancer

Close to 48,750 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. The risks tobacco users are taking with every puff or chew are profound, and dental practitioners see the damage that smoking and tobacco use causes every day.

Think vaping is a healthier option? Think again. The increasingly popular hookah and e-cigarette vapor can irritate your gum tissue and cause it to recede from your teeth. Once the gum tissue recedes, tooth roots become exposed, so there’s an increased risk of cavities. Also, the sugars that are added for flavor can increase your risk of tooth decay.

Early detection is important to treating disease, so all patients are urged to visit their dentist regularly for check-ups. Comprehensive dental exams are quick and painless, and give your dentist the opportunity to screen your mouth for cancer. Lips, salivary glands, gums, front of the mouth, base of the tongue, oropharynx (back of the throat), inside the cheeks, inside the lower and upper lip, floor of the mouth, and tonsils are thoroughly examined.

The bottom line is smoking leads to disease and harms nearly every organ of the body. It’s also the leading cause of preventable deathEncourage someone you know to quit smoking. By quitting, even for a day, smokers will be taking an important step toward a healthier life and reducing their risk of cancer.