Did you know that smoking causes 480,000 deaths a year? This is in addition to causing several cases of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and general breathing problems. Smoking is one common form of tobacco use, however there are other ways tobacco can be consumed, including: hookahs, electronic cigarettes (vapes), smokeless tobacco, cigars, and compressed dissolvable tobacco.
While some people think that certain forms of tobacco are “healthier” than others, any form of tobacco use is detrimental to both your overall and oral health. Not only does regular tobacco use increase the risk of certain oral health problems, but it can also compromise the mouth’s ability to heal. Here is what tobacco does to your oral health:
Wears Down the Enamel
Although your tooth enamel naturally wears down over time, using certain forms of tobacco can speed up this process. This is because unprocessed tobacco leaves, cigars, and chewing tobacco all contain tiny abrasive particles. These particles will mix with your saliva, forming an abrasive paste that wears your enamel down. As your enamel wears down, it becomes thinner and exposes the underlying dentin layer. This can result in tooth decay and tooth sensitivity.
Stains the Enamel
Exposing the underlying dentin layer can also make your teeth appear more yellow, since dentin is yellow. However, tobacco use can cause your teeth to appear yellow even when the dentin is not exposed. This is because one of the key ingredients in tobacco is nicotine, which causes a yellowish stain to form on the enamel. Not only that, but another key ingredient in tobacco is tar, which can stain both the enamel and gums a greyish-black color. Finally, tobacco use also causes a buildup of plaque and tartar on the surface of your teeth, which can make these stains more noticeable. For these reasons, the teeth of tobacco users are generally dull and stained.
Increases the Risk of Gum Disease
Besides making the stains on your teeth more noticeable, excess plaque and tartar accumulation also significantly increases your risk of developing gum disease. This is because gum disease is caused by excess plaque that builds up along the gum line. The bacteria in plaque eventually infects the gum tissue and causes inflammation. When not treated, gum disease can affect more than just the gums and can eventually result in tooth loss. There is also evidence that shows people with severe gum disease are more likely to develop other medical conditions.
Increases the Risk of Oral Cancer
Most people have heard that smoking cigarettes can increase the risk of lung cancer. However, any type of tobacco use can also increase the risk of oral cancer. Oral cancer can affect one or more of these structures: lips, tongue, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palates, sinuses, and/or throat. Studies indicate that smokers are 6 times more likely to develop oral cancer, while people who use chewing tobacco are 50 times more likely to develop oral cancer. Oftentimes people who use chewing tobacco develop oral cancer in the cheeks, lip lining, and gums, since this is where chewing tobacco ends up.
In addition to causing all of the aforementioned problems, tobacco use also impairs healing. This is because tobacco use reduces blood flow to the mouth, which restricts the amount of healing components that can be delivered. This means that it takes longer for tobacco users to heal from dental treatments such as extractions, oral surgery, and periodontal treatments. Impaired healing also increases the risk of complications after dental procedures and can limit the types of procedures that can be safely performed.
Dr. Sarmad Channo, a Rochester, MI dentist, received his doctorate degree from New York University Dental School. Since then, he has continued studying to broaden his expertise and has also graduated from Progressive Orthodontic Seminars with the highest of honors. Dr. Channo has also served as an instructor for both the McGann Postgraduate School of Dentistry and Progressive Orthodontic Seminars.