The impact of smoking on your general health is widely known, but the impact on your oral health seems to be discussed less often. Your mouth, gums and teeth are all at risk when you smoke, and it's not just from the staining caused by the tar and nicotine in tobacco products, so it's important for smokers to be aware of potential oral health problems. Here are some of the ways smoking can negatively impact your oral health.
Those who smoke tend to have a greater amount of bacterial plaque form on their teeth around their gum line. This can lead to red, inflamed gums and the development of gum disease. Gum disease allows bacteria to enter the tooth socket and can cause an abscess to form and infection can spread into the surrounding soft tissue, which can lead to tooth loss and even bone loss. Treatments for gum disease include antibiotics, root canal therapy, guided tissue regeneration and bone grafts.
Smoking reduces oxygen levels in the bloodstream, and this means you're more likely to have problems with healing. Healing can take longer and this puts you at an increased risk of developing a bacterial infection after a dental procedure, such as a root canal or a filling. When you have a tooth extracted, poor healing is linked to an increased risk of developing a dry socket. This is characterised by a blood clot failing to form in the socket. The blood clot is an important part of healing and protects the wound and nerve ending in the socket. A dry socket is painful and can lead to you requiring follow-up treatment to encourage healing.
Oral cancer risk is considered to be significantly greater in smokers than in non-smokers. The term refers to cancer of the mouth, lips, cheek tissue or tongue, and this type of cancer can spread to other parts of the body if it's not diagnosed and treated early. Persistent mouth ulcers, swelling of the tongue or gums and the development of white or red patches in your mouth are signs of oral cancer. Oral cancer can be detected during a routine dental check-up and is treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Stopping smoking can reduce your risk of developing this type of cancer down to that of a non-smoker.
If you're a smoker, be sure to have regular dental check-ups and discuss steps you can to improve your oral health with the help of a dentist.