31st May : No Tobacco Day

Smoking and the effects on your dental health:

No tobacco day is the perfect opportunity to start minimising the amount you smoke and ultimately quit smoking!

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. (https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/basics/threats-to-dental-health/what-you-need-to-know-about-smoking-and-oral-health-0814 )
People who smoke generally have a much higher rate of gum disease , complications after having teeth extracted and developing oral cancers.
The risk of tobacco related dental disease depends on how long you have smoked and the amount of cigarettes smoked daily however there are no healthy levels of exposure , even second hand smoke.

There are numerous benefits of stopping smoking not only for your dental health, but your overall health and wellbeing.

Dental Disease/ Complications Caused by Tobacco:

1: Oral Cancer :

Oral cancer is cancer of the mouth , including tongue, cheek , palate , floor of the mouth and lips. – Around 80% of oral cancer patients use tobacco.

Oral cancers are particularly dangerous due to the fact they are often not diagnosed until the later stages when it has metastasized to other parts of the body. Thus making it much more difficult to treat.
Symptoms include:

  • Swellings, thickness, lumps on lips, gums, tongue / other area of the mouth that to not go away.
  • White/ red patches in the mouth.
  • Unexplained bleeding.
  • Persistent sores on the face, neck, or mouth that bleed easily and do not heal.
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing , speaking or moving the jaw.

2: Periodontal Disease:

Periodontal (gum) disease is disease that effects, the gums, ligaments and bone supporting the teeth. Build up of plaque and bacteria creates an immune response that causes inflammation of the gums and attacks the bone and supporting structures.
As gum diseases progresses more bone is lost from around the teeth ultimately causing them to become loose.

People who smoke less than 10 cigarettes daily are two times more likely to develop gum disease. This increases to four to five times more likely in heavier smokers.

Smokers are also at high risk of developing acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis, also known as trench mouth- a painful gum condition which looks, smells and tastes terrible.

Smokers are also much less responsive to treatment of gum disease due to the bodies decreased ability to repair itself, encouragingly once people cease smoking the positive response to treatment increases.

Symptoms include:

  • Red , swollen, bleeding gums
  • Pain or tenderness of the gums
  • Discharge/ pus coming from the gums
  • Loose gums that fall away from the teeth
  • Bad breath/ bad taste
  • Loose teeth
  • Spaces opening up between teeth

3: Bad Breath/ Halitosis

With the increased incidence of gum disease also comes increased incidence of bad breath (halitosis).

Often smokers are not aware of the smell caused by excess tobacco. This will usually subside and improve once smoking has ceased.

4: Stained Teeth

The nicotine in tobacco will quickly cause the teeth to darken or go yellow, this will occur whether you smoke or chew tobacco. While staining is not detrimental to the health of the teeth it can often be difficult to remove as the tar settles into the small cracks and grooves of the teeth.

5: Black Hairy Tongue

Black hairy tongue is a harmless oral condition that gives the tongue a dark furry appearance. Although being harmless black hairy tongue can be quite unsightly.

Hairy tongue occurs from a build up of dead skin cells on the surface of the tongue that contains papillae (taste buds). Tobacco is one of the main contributing factors .

usually black hairy tongue can be resolved by eliminating the contributing factors as well as good dental hygiene.

Dental Care for Smokers:

If you are a smoker there are a few important things to remember when looking after your oral health;

  • Try to stop smoking ; this is the number one biggest factor in improving the health of your mouth, teeth and gums. Your doctor or Quitline are available for help and support.
  • If stopping completely is too hard; At the very least try to reduce the amount you are smoking daily.
  • Thoroughly brushing with fluoridated tooth paste twice a day. Do not use an abrasive (Smokers) toothpaste as it will damage the gums and roots of your teeth.
  • Use dental floss or interdental brushes to clean in between your teeth.
  • Visit your Dentist/ Hygienist regularly for preventive dental care.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Limit alcohol intake.

Where To Get Help on Your Journey to Quitting:

  • Your Doctor
  • Dentist or Healthcare professional
  • Australian Dental Association Tel. (03) 8825 4600
  • QUITLINE: Tel. 13 7848 (13 QUIT)