How tobacco and nicotine can affect your dental health

Regardless of whether you’re a smoker, you probably know that the habit produces a host of negative health outcomes. Many people don’t realize, however, that smoking can seriously compromise a person’s oral health, as well. Dentists in Tarrant County routinely recommend that patients who smoke take steps to quit as soon as possible.

Dentists witness the negative effects of smoking firsthand when they see patients who smoke who have gum disease or significant tooth decay, both of which have been linked to tobacco use. It is believed that smoking causes inflammation in gum tissue, just as it does in the rest of the body, which can lead to infection in the gums and, ultimately, periodontal disease. That condition can lead to the loss of teeth and jaw bone material.

Plaque is another common concern for dentists and their patients, and smoking can lead to greater quantities of this sticky film in the mouth. People who smoke tend to produce less saliva, which has an essential function of keeping the mouth clear of bacteria and the plaque that harbors them. If those bacteria continue to build up, they can promote tooth decay.

Tobacco use has bad cosmetic effects, too. Smoking leaves behind a tell-tale yellow tinge on the teeth, detracting from the smile’s aesthetics. Bad breath is another unpleasant, if not health-threatening, side effect of smoking.

Contrary to popular belief, chewing tobacco is no safer than cigarettes. People who “chew” are much more likely to develop oral cancer than those who don’t. In fact, a whopping 90 percent of people who develop some sort of oral cancer, including cancer of the lips or tongue, use tobacco, according to the American Cancer Society.

Because smoking has such a detrimental effect on oral health, dentists often are well-versed in various methods for quitting. Ask your dentist for smoking cessation tips, because it’s never too late to quit. Many of the negative oral health effects associated with smoking decline in the years after a patient kicks the habit.v