Many people are aware of the negative effects that tobacco use has on their overall health. In fact, cigarette smoking alone is responsible for approximately 480,000 deaths every year. While smoking cigarettes is the most common form of tobacco use, unfortunately it is not the only way tobacco can be consumed. Other forms of tobacco use that are still detrimental include smokeless tobacco, cigars, compressed dissolvable tobacco, hookahs, and electronic cigarettes (vapes).
Although tobacco use is primarily associated with causing respiratory problems like lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and breathing problems, its detrimental effects don’t stop at the respiratory system. In fact, tobacco use is also highly detrimental to your oral health. For starters, it can cause a variety of oral health problems. Additionally, it can also make it harder to treat these conditions effectively.
Here are some of the ways tobacco use affects your oral health:
Causes Gum Disease
Gum disease, such as gingivitis and periodontitis, is already a highly common dental problem that occurs when plaque and bacteria accumulate along the gum line. However, those who use tobacco are at an increased risk for developing severe gum disease since tobacco impairs the normal functioning of gum cells and reduces blood flow. This makes the gums more susceptible to infections, as well as slows down healing.
Wears Down Enamel
Your enamel is the protective outer layer of your teeth. Although it is very strong, it is not entirely indestructible. In fact, tooth enamel can wear down over time when exposed to abrasive substances. This includes tobacco products such as cigars, unprocessed tobacco leaves, and chewing tobacco, which all contain tiny abrasive particles. Since these particles blend with saliva to create an abrasive paste, they gradually break down tooth enamel over time. This can result in tooth sensitivity to hot and cold, as well as increase the risk of tooth decay.
Just as tobacco use can affect the function of your teeth and gums, it can also affect the look of your smile. For starters, tobacco use causes more plaque and tartar buildup. As food particles become trapped in this buildup, it can cause your teeth to stain. Not to mention the fact that nicotine turns your teeth yellow, while tar can cause them to darken in color. In some cases, your gums may even become stained, especially when using chewing tobacco.
As mentioned before, tobacco reduces blood flow. Not only does this increase the risk of gum disease, but it makes it harder for the body to heal itself. This is especially problematic when recovering from restorative dental treatments such as tooth extractions, periodontal treatments, or oral surgery. Additionally, tobacco use can also eliminate you as a candidate for dental implants since it causes the success rate of dental implants to drop dramatically.
Increases Risk of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is a collective name for a group of cancers that affect the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palates, sinuses, and pharynx (throat). People who smoke cigarettes, pipes, or cigars are six times more likely to develop oral cancer, while those who use chewing tobacco are 50 times more likely to develop cancer affecting the cheeks, gums, and lining of the lips.