What Effect Does Smoking Have on My Teeth?
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It is well-documented that smoking poses risks to your overall health, with one of — if not the most — significant being cancer. Often, a lot of people only associate smoking with lung cancer (since it is so commonly discussed); however, smoking also leads to a variety of mouth and throat cancers that can potentially be fatal if not addressed promptly.
In fact, smoking poses multiple risks to the health and aesthetics of your teeth and mouth, risks that should not be overlooked.
How Does Smoking Increase My Chance of Oral Cancer?
Cigarettes contain over 60 cancer-causing agents, all of which you are exposed to when you smoke. These cancer-causing agents are present in all types of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco.
It is estimated that roughly 80 percent of patients with oral cancer use a tobacco product, and the more you smoke, the greater you are at risk. You may even be at a higher risk if you are exposed to secondhand smoke long-term.
Smoking has been linked to cancer in the:
- Roof of the mouth
- Floor of the mouth
- Throat (oropharyngeal cancer)
The chemicals and toxins in cigarettes can cause cancer while also preventing the body from attacking the cancer. Smoking weakens the immune system, so the body cannot attack the cancer cells, and the cancer grows rapidly.
Symptoms of oral cancer include:
- Sores or irritation that don’t do away
- Lumps or thickening, rough spots in the mouth
- Tenderness, numbness, or pain in the mouth or lips
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or speaking
- White or red patches
- Changes in your bit (the way your teeth fit together)
If you are or used to be a smoker, you can significantly benefit from routine oral cancer screenings with your dentist — and these screenings may even save your life.
During your bi-annual teeth check-up and cleaning, your dentist will examine your mouth and throat for early signs of oral or oropharyngeal cancer. If they notice any irregularities, they will perform an oral cancer screening.
Dr. Fiss utilizes VELscope® to perform oral cancer screenings. This technology uses high-energy lights and specialized filters that identify abnormalities that may be cancer.
Often, warning signs of oral cancer are too minor for individuals to notice themselves. All smokers — current and past — need to prioritize regular dental appointments so they can get screened.
What Else Does Smoking Do to Your Teeth?
Causes the Teeth to Turn Yellow or Brown
The tar in nicotine stains the teeth, especially when you smoke consistently (which most cigarette smokers do). While this can start as a faint yellowing of the teeth, it can worsen to a muddy brown color.
Yellow teeth tend to make people feel insecure about their appearance. And while they may turn to teeth whitening treatments (including professional teeth whitening with their dentist), these options usually only produce short-term results if you continue your smoking habit.
Instead, quitting smoking is the best solution to achieve a lasting white smile.
Dr. Fiss offers in-office teeth whitening treatments, including ZOOM! teeth whitening.
Causes Dry Mouth and Bad Breath
Smoking reduces saliva production, which causes dry mouth and bad breath. Saliva is necessary to healthy teeth and gums, as it helps to cleanse the mouth, protect against tooth decay, and wash the smell of smoke that can linger in the mouth.
Dr. Fiss offers several treatments for bad breath; however, once again, the best first-step approach is to quit smoking.
Increases Risk of Gum Disease
Smoking is a leading cause of gum disease.
Gum disease is a condition that infects the gums and can weaken the bone structure of your teeth. Smoking weakens the body’s immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off gum disease as it spreads.
If gum disease is left untreated, it can cause significant oral health concerns, including tooth loss.
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You should also check out our smile gallery with before and after photos of our previous patients.