Oral Health While Smoking: Giving Your Mouth A Fighting Chance

18 November 2015
 Categories: Dentist, Blog


For oral as well as general health, it is recommended that you don't smoke or use nicotine products at all. However, there are an estimated 42.1 million adult smokers in America. Smoking puts added strain on the mouth by increasing the risk of such diseases as oral cancers, periodontal disease and ulcers. As a result, smokers need to take extra precautions when taking care of their oral health.

So if you are among the millions of people who regularly, or even occasionally, enjoy a cigarette, pipe, cigar or chewing tobacco, here are some things you can do to give your mouth and oral structures a better chance at health.

Divide and conquer

Since smokers are twice as likely to suffer from gum disease and twice as likely to lose teeth as non-smokers, you may be able to help mitigate the consequences of smoking by making other healthy choices for your mouth. Eating and drinking certain foods and putting the teeth in danger with such things as tongue piercings, can make oral concerns even worst. Alcohol contains high sugar levels that can increase the incidence of tooth decay and those such as wine, not only stain the teeth (adding to the staining effect of tobacco), but contain acid that softens the enamel and wears away at the teeth.

The use of other foods which are either high in sugar, acid or low in their pH levels, such as sour candy, soft drinks and fruit juices, can also lead to diminished teeth size. The use of grills, lip and tongue piercings, cracking ice, chewing hard candy and using your teeth as a bottle cap opener are also dangerous habits to avoid. While the enamel may be the hardest thing found in the body, all these items and actions can increase the possibility of breaking, chipping or cracking it. 

Getting things checked

While it is recommended that a person should visit the dentist about twice per year, it may be better for a smoker to visit every three to four months. The dentist or oral surgeon can identify signs of periodontal disease or early warnings for cancer. However, even with those increased visits, it is important to do your own mouth self-examination and to take extra precautions at ramping up your oral health. Self-exams will include the lips, cheeks, roof of the mouth, above and under the tongue and gums. Any sores, lumps, swellings or discoloration in the mouth that last more than 2 weeks should be investigated and taken to a dentist for further treatment. Discoloration can be in the form of white, red or dark patches on any surface inside the mouth. 

Pain or numbness in any oral structure should also be noted and reported to a dentist, such as Cobbe Dental & Orthodontics, as this can also indicate developing issues. Recurrent bleeding, especially if it happens spontaneously, can also be an indication of more than just gum disease.