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The effects of smoking on oral health

December 31, 2009

Since the 1960s, it is very well known that smoking is hazardous to your health, particularly to your heart and lungs.  But of course, these aren’t the only negative effects on the body.  Smoking also can take a large toll on your mouth and throat.  Smoking can cause bad breath, stained teeth, and receding gums, as well as higher risks of gum disease, plaque buildup, tooth loss, and oral cancer. Tobacco smoke contains many carcinogens that interrupts the normal function of cells in the mouth, like gum tissue for instance.  This interference weakens the gums, making infections and gum diseases more likely.  The affected tissue cells can also slow blood flow to the gums, losing access to important nutrients and oxygen that keep the gums healthy.  This also affects the attachment of bone and soft tissue to the teeth, increasing the chances of tooth loss. Smoking also dries out the mouth, causing an increase in bacteria growth.  This can lead to bad breath and possibly hairy tongue as well.  The dryness in the mouth can also lead to an inflammation of the salivary gland openings on the roof of the mouth, as well as increasing the risk of leukoplakia. Smoking is also known to have very potent staining abilities.  Most smokers tend to have off-white or even yellow teeth, and the stains are set in very deep, making it harder whiten your teeth.  Even using teeth whitening kit can take many times longer than for non-smokers, and most likely the teeth will never reach the desired shade. Of course, the most harmful effect is the dramatically higher risk of getting oral cancers.  In fact, smokers are 6 times more likely to get cancer of the mouth, lips, tongue or throat than non-smokers. As you can see, smoking has a major impact on your major overall health, but it’s never too late.  It’s been shown that quitting can greatly reduce the risks of these affects.  And after some time, the likelihood of periodontal disease for ex-smokers won’t be much different than that of regular non-smokers. Quitting may be a difficult task to do, but as you can see the rewards are well worth it.  The first step is to consult your doctor.  And of course, make sure to see both your doctor and dentist regularly.