The risks of smoking are well-researched and studied, yet millions of people continue to light up anyway. Virtually everyone knows cigarette smoking is harmful, but fewer people are aware of how smoking can wreak havoc on oral health as well. While the link to lung cancer, emphysema, and other diseases is well known, smoking and oral health is a less-discussed topic. In the United States, cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death. Dentists also warn of the dangers smoking poses to oral health and urge patients to quit smoking.
Although smoking rates have dropped considerably in the past few decades, there are still more than 34 million smokers nationwide, meaning about 14% of the U.S. population smokes.
The most common health risks associated with smoking include:
- Gum disease: Smokers develop bacterial plaque faster, which leads to gum disease. The reason the gums are affected is because smoking impacts blood flow, so infected gums cannot heal as easily. Gum disease is a progressive condition, and can only be reversed in the earliest stages. Warning signs of gum disease include red, puffy gums, and bleeding while flossing. Smokers are twice as likely to have gum disease compared to nonsmokers.
- Tooth decay: As the gums erode, the teeth roots become exposed, leaving the smoker prone to infection and tooth decay. Even chewing tobacco users are at risk, because many smokeless tobaccos typically contain sand and grit, and are flavored with added sugar.
- Tooth loss: Those with advanced gum disease (periodontitis) are at risk of tooth loss. Gum disease gradually erodes the tissue supporting teeth, and as the teeth become looser, they are prone to falling out.
- Oral cancer: Approximately 90% of people with cancers of the mouth, tongue, lips or throat have used tobacco. Smokers are six times more likely than non-smokers to develop oral cancer. Signs of oral cancer include non-healing ulcers and/or suspicious lesions.
- Delayed healing of oral lesions and/or wounds: Smoking hinders the immune system, which can increase healing time after oral surgery.
What Are the Benefits to Quitting Smoking?
Apart from the money you’ll save by quitting a pack-a-day habit, the damage smoking has caused to your mouth can be reversed if you give it up for good. While it is difficult to give up an addiction to smoking, nothing is more important than your health. Austell Dental Associates encourages you to look into smoking cessation techniques, so you can lead a healthier life with a healthier smile.
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