Smoking and Dental Health
Smoking is an incredibly addictive habit that is finally decreasing over the years. Most people who smoke are already familiar with the dangers of smoking, yet they lack the will to quit to preserve their health. Most people start smoking at an early age, some of them even as early as their elementary school years. The problem with smoking is that its effect increases with age, increasing the period and the number of packs of cigarettes that a person smokes per day. Any person who smokes is always in grave danger to their health in general and to their teeth specifically.
What are the general dangers of smoking?
Everybody knows the dangers that smoking causes to your health and body. The range of risks is extremely wide, ranging from simple burning of the hands and fingers to effects on the lungs and breathing, all the way to the most dangerous condition of all: cancer. Studies have shown that smoking significantly increases the risk of oral, lung and stomach cancer.
What are the effects of smoking on the teeth and mouth?
The first thing that cigarette smoking passes through is the mouth, so you can imagine that the effects in the mouth are quite direct and severe. The smallest problems that smoking causes are bad breath and staining of the teeth, which in turn can affect your appearance, smile, and general confidence.
Smoking also affects the gums, making them more friable and weak, and more liable to bleeding. This subsequently increases the risk of periodontal disease (also known as gum disease), and the teeth become covered with plaque and tartar more quickly, and also can become more mobile, and require extraction much sooner than people who don’t smoke.
Another effect of smoking is that it makes your mouth dry. You may think that dry mouth is a small matter and can be easily managed, but this cannot be further from the truth. The saliva in your mouth is the main buffer for acids and food that a person eats or drinks and acts as a cleaning agent to remove food remnants and bacteria. Lack of saliva can make the food remnants and acids stick more to the teeth, leading to an increased rate of decay and periodontal disease, and excessive difficulty in speech, swallowing and cleaning. Patients also need to know that dry mouth is an extremely difficult condition for dentists to treat, and requires drastic changes in lifestyle.
The most dangerous effect of smoking is, of course, oral cancer. Smoker keratosis – which is a white patch that occurs on the cheek, lips or tongue of a smoker at least once in their lifetime – is considered a precancerous condition that can turn into a cancer of the mouth. Also the dry mouth that accompanies smoking and increased heat from the cigarette smoke makes for a great environment for development of cancer.
I have tried quitting smoking before, unsuccessfully, how can I do it?
The first thing that any smoker needs to know is that they are not alone. Millions of people around the world smoke and most of them tried to quit at least once before without success.
Most doctors and dentists nowadays are trained to provide advice and help patients who want to quit smoking. One of the most recent approaches used is called the 4A approach, which goes as follows:
Ask: meaning taking history from patients about how much they smoke and how long they’ve been smoking.
Advice: Giving advice to patients who are willing to quit recently became a significant part of medical and dental practice.
Assist: giving assistance to patients by directing them to group therapies and specialized centers that have highly trained professionals that can help with the transition from smoking to not smoking.
Arrange: Follow-up visits just to make sure that the patient is really trying to quit, and see the positive effects of quitting.
Quitting smoking is no easy feat for sure, but with the proper help and guidance, it can become much easier.