Smoking causes 480,000 deaths per year, as well as several cases of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and breathing problems. However, smoking cigarettes is only one form of tobacco use. Unfortunately there are various other forms such as cigars, smokeless tobacco, hookahs, electronic cigarettes (vapes), and compressed dissolvable tobacco, that can cause similar health problems.
In addition to potentially causing major respiratory problems, tobacco use also causes a number of oral health problems. Not only that, but tobacco use can also make it difficult to effectively treat the very oral health problems that it causes. In fact, here are some of the ways that tobacco use negatively affects your oral health:
Stains Your Teeth
From a purely aesthetic standpoint, tobacco use negatively affects the way your smile looks. This is because two common ingredients used in tobacco products, nicotine and tar, have been shown to permanently stain the teeth. Nicotine generally causes yellow discoloration, while tar can cause grey or black stains on the teeth and gums. Tobacco use also causes excess plaque and tartar to accumulate on the surface of the teeth, which also negatively affects the look of your smile. Overall, the teeth of tobacco users are often dull and discolored.
Increases Risk of Gum Disease
Gum disease is a common oral health problem that occurs when bacteria and plaque along the gum line cause the gums to become inflamed and infected. There is a mild form known as gingivitis, as well as an advanced form known as periodontitis. Although gum disease is already a common problem, tobacco users are at an elevated risk of developing periodontitis. This is because tobacco restricts blood flow to the gums and alters the normal function of gum cells, which makes it harder to fight off and heal from gum disease.
Prematurely Wears Your Enamel
Unprocessed tobacco leaves, cigars, and chewing tobacco all contain tiny abrasive particles. When these particles mix with your saliva, an abrasive paste is formed that is damaging to your tooth enamel. Although tooth enamel is strong, it can still be gradually worn down over time when constantly exposed to abrasive materials. And since enamel is the protective layer, once it wears down, your teeth are more likely to become decayed or affected by tooth sensitivity.
Slows the Healing Process
Since tobacco causes blood flow to be reduced, it slows the healing process and makes it harder for the body to effectively heal itself after extractions, oral surgery, or periodontal treatments. Unfortunately, this also increases the risk of posttreatment complications and can even limit your restoration options. For example, many dentists will not place dental implants in people who use tobacco because it is more likely that the implant will fail in someone who uses tobacco.
Increases the Risk of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer can affect the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palates, sinuses, and throat. Studies have shown that individuals who smoke cigarettes, cigars, or pipes are six times more likely to develop oral cancer. This number grows to 50 times more likely in individuals who use chewing tobacco. However, those who use chewing tobacco are more likely to develop oral cancer in the cheeks, lip lining, and gums.
Dr. Sadati possesses extensive experience in all aspects of advanced restorative dentistry, with an emphasis in cosmetic and implant dentistry. He has attained Accredited Fellow status in the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), the most rigorous, demanding credentialing process in the world. He is the only AACD Accredited Fellow in South Florida.