Everyone knows that smoking is bad for health. Smoking tobacco can lead to cancer, lung diseases, and heart diseases. But do you know how smoking affects your oral cavity? After all every puff of smoke that enters your body has to first pass through your lips, tongue, teeth, gums and then it finally reaches your lungs.
Here is a list of effects that smoking can have on mouth:
• Staining of teeth and dental fillings. The tar and nicotine leave yellow stains on teeth and dental fillings which after a period of time seep into the tiny cracks of teeth and make them permanent.
• Drying of mouth. Smoking reduces the amount of saliva in mouth and aggravates drying of mouth.
• Bad breath. This bad breath doesn’t go off easily with chewing a mint. The chemicals that pass through mouth while smoking get collected on surfaces of mouth and the dryness produced due to smoking are responsible for this bad breath.
• Gum diseases. It has been found that the bacteria’s involved in gum disease are present in higher amount in smokers than in non smokers. Saliva has cleaning action in mouth and on teeth, due to reduced amount of saliva in the mouth there is increased amount of deposits in the mouth (i.e. plaque). Smoking causes constriction of blood vessels thus resulting in poor response of body to the plaque. The heat produced due to smoke also kills the important cells in mouth which help to fight back gum disease. The chemicals present in smoke affect the attachment of gum to the bone, resulting in increased amount of loss of bone, which finally results in more loss of teeth.
• Tooth decay. Reduced saliva flow and increased plaque, increases the risk of tooth decay in smokers. It has been found that smokers are three times at higher risk for cavities than non smokers.
• Altered taste and smell. Smoking alters your senses of taste and smell. This is the major reason why smokers weigh less than non smokers. Because of the loss of taste you may also end up adding too much salt or sugar in your food leading to other problems.
• Smoker’s palate. The palate of smokers appears white, with number of little spots project from the surface, each bearing a small red spot at the centre that marks the opening of the duct of the salivary gland. This appearance is due to irritated salivary glands with inflamed ducts which is in response to heat. This lesion is reversible and the palate comes back to normal within 2-3 weeks of quitting smoking.
• Smoker’s melanosis is associated with cigarette and pipe smoking, and is seen as brown spots inside the mouth.
• Hairy tongue is overgrowth of little “hairs” on the tongue known as papillae. The papillae may be stained white, yellow, brown, green, or black depending on the source of the staining. With tobacco use, the color is generally brown or black. This condition is of concern as it does not look very nice, and also contributes to bad breath.
• Delayed healing process following tooth extraction, periodontal treatment, or any kind of oral surgery. There is also lower success rate of dental implant procedures in smokers.
• Oral precancer. Oral leukoplakia, which can be regarded as “pre-cancer” is far more common in smokers than in non-smokers. Leukoplakia is any white lesion whose cause is not known, and there is a chance that these lesions can become cancer.
• Oral cancer. Last but surely not the least, the deadly cancer. It has been found that cigarette, cigar, or pipe smokers are six times more likely to develop oral cancers than nonsmokers. Oral cancers include cancers of the oral cavity, mouth and lip. Combining smoking and excessive alcohol intake increases the risk of getting oral cancer. Three out of four oral cancers, is seen in people who smoke or drink alcohol or both.
Like cigars and cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products (for example, snuff and chewing tobacco) contain at least 28 chemicals that have been shown to increase the risk of oral cancer and cancer of the throat and esophagus. In fact, chewing tobacco contains higher levels of nicotine than cigarettes, making it harder to quit than cigarettes.
Oral cancer can develop at any time. It’s important to know what to look for and to tell your dentist and physician right away if you have any concerns.
If you experience any sign of irritation, like tenderness, burning, or a sore that will not heal, tell your dentist or physician. Also, tell your dentist or physician if you have pain, tenderness, or numbness anywhere in your mouth or lips.
The development of a lump or a wrinkled or bumpy patch inside your mouth also can be a sign of oral cancer. In addition, if the tissues in your mouth change color to gray, red, or white, make an appointment to see your dentist or physician.
Tobacco in any form is enemy of good oral health. Schedule a checkup with your dentist, to detect these effects of smoking as early as possible and help to give you better life.