Smoking is bad for your general health but did you know that smoking is a major contributor to oral health problems also? While smoking is well known as a cause of tooth discolouration, loss of your sense of taste, and bad breath, it also has damaging effects on the health of your teeth and gums.
Can smoking cause you to lose your teeth?
Smoking definitely increases your risk of tooth loss. Heavy smokers have more than 3 times the risk of tooth loss compared to non-smokers according to a European study conducted in 2015. However, your level of risk decreases to that of non-smokers, after you have quit smoking for 10-20 years.
How does smoking affect your teeth and gums?
Smoking affects your teeth and gums because smoking by-products and nicotine reduce the flow of blood and oxygen to your oral tissues. If you have periodontal disease, this may prolong inflammation and gum infections, making it more difficult for your immune system to protect your oral health.
Other oral health risks and complications from smoking –
- Tooth decay – When you smoke, your mouth dries out. A dry mouth allows oral bacteria to develop which increases in the amount of bacterial acid in your oral cavity. This leads to more rapid onset of tooth decay.
- Oral cancer – Cigarette smoke contain a number of carcinogenic chemicals. When your oral and throat tissues are constantly exposed to cigarette smoke, genetic changes may occur to your soft tissue cells. This increases your risk of oral cancer significantly. For smokers, oral cancer usually occurs on your tongue or the bottom of your mouth. After you have quit smoking for 5 years, your risk for oral cancer halves.
- Slows down recovery time after surgery – If you’ve had a tooth extraction, dental implants or another type of oral surgery, smoking may impair, and even interrupt the healing process – of bones, soft tissue and wounds. Dentists also recommend that you stop smoking at least 12 hours before oral surgery.
Try to quit smoking!
The benefits of quitting smoking to your oral (and general) health are clear, though it is usually a very difficult habit to stop. So do yourself a favour and get support! Call Quitline 13 QUIT (137 848) for free information, assistance and support.
Dietrich, T., Walter, C., & Oluwagbemigun, K. (2015). Smoking, Smoking Cessation, and Risk of Tooth Loss: The EPIC-Potsdam Study. Journal of Dental Research, 94(10), 1369-1375.