It is widely known that tobacco harms your overall health in many ways. The risks of lung cancer, vascular disease, high blood pressure, and other problems are well-documented, and healthcare professionals universally recommend that patients stop smoking and avoid tobacco altogether. What you may not realise, however, is that tobacco presents specific threats to your oral health.
Let’s take a look at four of the major ways that tobacco can hurt your teeth, gums, and mouth.
In addition to lung cancer, smoking also greatly increases your risk of oral cancer. These cancers can affect your tongue, salivary glands, and oral tissues. As with other types of cancer, oral cancer may undergo metastasis, spreading to distant organs elsewhere in your body. Oral cancer can be deadly, and the disease may recur even after successful treatment.
You should know that oral cancer is not associated only with cigarette smoking. Smokeless tobacco use – such as chewing tobacco, moist snuff, dip, and snus – is also a risk factor for developing oral cancer. While smokeless tobacco is not thought to increase the risk of lung cancer, any form of tobacco is not a safe alternative to smoking.
Tobacco use is strongly associated with gum issues like gingivitis and periodontitis. Not only does gum disease sometimes result in an unattractive smile, but it can also threaten your teeth. Using tobacco raises your risk of tooth loss from disease and may make you an unsuitable candidate for tooth replacement with dental implants.
Furthermore, gum disease is often painful, particularly in advanced cases. Patients suffering from gum disease may also experience oral lesions and bleed from their gums.
Although having darkened or yellowed teeth is not strictly an oral health issue, this condition is often unsightly and undesirable. Tobacco is one of the top culprits of teeth staining. Both smoking and smokeless tobacco can produce stains.
Also, tobacco may stain dental work like fillings and crowns. Whitening treatments may not remove stains in these cases, and you will need to have the work re-done to remove the stains.
Bad breath, or halitosis, is a frequent result of tobacco use. It is not simply foul-smelling smoke that causes bad breath but also the gum disease that often accompanies tobacco use. So, even smokeless tobacco use may lead to offensive breath and stench from your mouth. Bad breath creates a negative social impression and may even cause you to feel rejected or isolated.