It is hard to escape the extensive media coverage and warnings about the potential impact of smoking on our overall health. Whilst the introduction of the smoking ban in pubs and restaurants saw a change in the smoking habits of many, the government and NHS are still actively working towards reducing the number of smokers in the UK. And whilst we may be aware of the more general risks to our health, how much do we really know about the impact of smoking on our teeth and gums? Today we would like to give you an overview of some of the issues that need to be considered.
A range of oral health problems have been linked to smoking, ranging from issues such as the staining of teeth and bad breath, through to more serious conditions such as gum disease and mouth cancer.
When it comes to issues such as staining, the nicotine and tar found in tobacco are key culprits. Even over a short period of time, teeth can become yellowed. Over a longer period of time, some smokers notice that their teeth are almost brown through staining. Gum disease can also occur and worsen more quickly and easily in smokers. This is due to an increase in bacterial plaque that smokers produce, and a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream which prevents gums from healing as quickly.
You may notice specialist toothpastes, that are designed ‘for smokers’ available on the market. Some of these aim to improve the appearance of your teeth by reducing staining. They might, for example, claim to have whitening abilities. However, some of these toothpastes can be more abrasive that normal toothpastes, and so it is important to apply caution when using them: we’d advise that you speak to a member of your dental team for guidance. In addition, some smokers use specialist mouthwashes which can sometimes temporarily reduce problems such as bad breath.
It is important to attend regular dental check-ups – as often as is recommended by your dentist. In these visits, your dentist will be able to check out your teeth and gums, but also your whole mouth area. They can check for any signs or symptoms that indicate that further investigation is needed. In addition, it may be that you need to increase the frequency of your trips to the dental hygienist. This will help to keep your teeth clean, and reduce staining.
Smoking has the potential to have a range of unpleasant, and sometimes very serious effects on our oral health. By being aware of the potential risks, and taking active steps towards reducing these, you can minimise the potential severity. Speak to your dentist today to find out more about how they can support you, and to learn more about how to maintain your oral health. The Oral Health Foundation website also has lots more information.