Everyone knows that smoking cigarettes makes your lungs black with tar, but have you ever thought about what all that smoking does to your oral health? The bottom line, it is bad, not just bad breath and stained teeth, but bumps, dots, and oral cancer. When smoke is inhaled from a cigarette of cigar, the soft tissues and teeth of the oral cavity are exposed to the highest concentration of chemicals and heat, putting them at high risk for developing adverse conditions.
Smoking Damages Your Mouth & Gums
The dry heat from a cigarette or cigar dries and irritates the soft tissue on the roof of the mouth and cheeks. Smoking tobacco is evidenced by the presence of a white film with red dots on the roof of the mouth; a heat caused condition known as nicotine stomatitis. The insides of the cheeks often appear to have a thin white-gray film over them. This condition, leukoedema, is caused by dry irritation to the tissue layers. The cells fill with fluid and produce a toughened surface, the source of discoloration. Nicotine stomatitis and leukoedema are painless and non-cancerous in nature. However, the drying effects make tissues vulnerable and, in combination with carcinogens of smoking tobacco, contribute to development of cancerous lesions. In fact, over 90% of oral cancer cases are attributed to tobacco use.
Stains & Weakens Teeth
Smoking poses a variety of detrimental effects to the teeth as well. The same tar that collects in the lungs builds on the teeth, appearing as a brown or black sticky coating that must be removed by special dental instruments. Pigments from this coating can permanently stain the teeth, turning them from white to yellow. Tobacco also creates an acidic oral environment. This, along with the drying effects, threatens the health of the teeth. Saliva flow diminishes, reducing tooth lubrication and leaving them exposed to the erosive effects of the acid. Teeth with weakened surfaces are vulnerable to cavity formation and mass decay possibly warranting future extraction.
Further, the survival rate for an individual with oral cancer is just 50%. Resources can be found at http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org.
By Acacia Swanson, BSDH