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Smoking: A danger to your oral health
Updated: 9/25/2013 3:30:10 PM

We know the dangers of smoking and how it can impair our health, but in what ways is it actually damaging to our oral health?

We know the dangers of smoking and how it can impair health, but to what extent is it damaging to oral health? 

Higher risk of gum disease
Plaque is considered the main cause of periodontal (gum) disease, which is the leading cause of tooth loss, but tobacco use is also one of the major risk factors in the growth and spreading of the disease. It is known that smoking leads to an increased build-up of plaque and tartar on an individual's teeth, but smoking also disturbs the attachment of bone and soft tissue to the teeth, according to WebMD. Tobacco has been known to interfere with the function of gum tissue cells, and the result is that smokers are susceptible to oral infections, which include periodontal disease. This interference also impairs blood flow to the gums, which may affect the healing of wounds.

A cause of leukoplakia
Leukoplakia is a white or grayish patch that appears on the tongue, the inside of the cheek or on the floor of the mouth, according to WebMD. It is the result of prolonged irritation of the mucous membranes of the mouth. Though it is most common in senior adults, it can occur at any age. Smoking tobacco does irritate the mucous membranes and is a cause of leukoplakia. 

Though the disease can be painless, the patches are usually sensitive to touch, heat, spicy foods and other irritations. In cases apart from smoking, oral surgery is sometimes required to remove the irritation source. Otherwise, the dentist may advise an affected patient to stop smoking.

A dental implant no-no
Dental implants are the optimal solution to replacing missing teeth. With a root made out of titanium, dentists can attach implants to bones beneath the patient's gums. For those who are interested in dental implants but have no dental insurance or are in financial need, it might benefit them to look into a discount dental plan, which would substantially decrease the fees required to have this multi-visit procedure done.

In addition, smoking slows down the recovery time of dental implants, which usually takes two to six months. During this period, a patient is expected to have normal blood circulation, and the bone itself needs oxygen. Patients with the condition peri-implantitis are predisposed to responding poorly to implants because of the development of a deep mucosal pocket. This pocket, which leads to inflammation around the area of the implant, prevents the bone from accepting the implant, and the whole procedure fails. Though peri-implantitis is something any patient may develop, the chances are higher among smokers compared to nonsmokers.

Smokeless tobacco still a risk factor
Patients, who think they are safe because they get tobacco from a non-smoking source, should think again. According to WebMD, smokeless tobacco products contain dozens of chemicals that have been proven to increase the risks of cancers of the mouth, throat and esophagus. Chewing tobacco - a popular non-smoking tobacco source - contains a higher nicotine content than cigarettes, making it harder for users to quit. Also, one can of snuff, another cigarette alternative, has more nicotine than around 60 cigarettes.

Smokeless tobacco irritates the tissues of the gums, causing recession, which poses a high risk of tooth decay. Having the roots of teeth exposed in such a way also increases the likelihood of tooth loss and can make eating and drinking uncomfortable, due to the fact that exposed roots are more sensitive to hot and cold than those that are not. Smokeless tobacco also contains a high amount of sand and grit, which will naturally wear down teeth. 

© 2013 Brafton Inc.


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