Oral Health and Tobacco

Oral_HealthThere has been a concerted effort in the past several decades to educate the public about the risks of tobacco use. But while most people are now aware that a strong link exists between use of tobacco and lung cancer or emphysema, far fewer can describe the damage that tobacco products can inflict upon your oral health.

The oral health risks to your teeth and gums fall into three main categories: damage to your teeth and jaw bone, damage to your gums, and the possibility of oral cancer.

Tobacco risks to your teeth

  • People who smoke tobacco have heavier calculus, or hardened plaque, on their teeth.
  • When you have particles of tobacco in your mouth, either from smoking or chewing tobacco, these mix with saliva to form an abrasive paste that can damage tooth enamel.
  • Smokers are two times more likely to lose their teeth, often due to their increased susceptibility to periodontal disease (see next section for details).

Tobacco risks to your gums

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco reduces the ability of your body to fight infections and form new blood vessels, two factors that are believed to contribute to periodontal (gum) disease.
  • Half (50 percent) of tobacco smokers have periodontal disease, including the advanced, hard-to-treat condition known as periodontitis.
  • Smoking also has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of periodontal disease treatments.
  • Studies indicate that smokers are three times more likely to experience gum destruction as a result of gum disease, and five times more likely to experience bone loss in their jaw due to advanced gum disease.

Tobacco risks and oral cancer

  • The final risk to oral health from tobacco use is one of the most serious: 90 percent of those who have oral cancer have used tobacco, and those who chew tobacco have a 50 times greater risk of contracting it than a non-user.
  • The other sobering statistic related to oral cancer is that it is rarely diagnosed during its earlier, more treatable stages, so its death rate is high – 40 to 50 percent.

“There are few substances as harmful to your oral health as tobacco,” says Dr. Carol Ford, a cosmetic dentist with a practice in central Phoenix. “Quitting greatly reduces your health risks, and visiting your dentist regularly can help ensure any tobacco-related changes to your mouth are addressed promptly.”




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