Even though bad breath and yellow teeth are two problems that affect the smiles of nearly all smokers, these may be the least of their problems. Whether you smoke cigarettes, cigars, or a pipe or you chew tobacco, regularly using these products can set the stage for very poor oral health as you age. From an increased risk for periodontal disease to permanent tooth loss, learning about the adverse effects of smoking might just give you the motivation you need to kick the habit for good.
Gum Disease (a.k.a. Periodontal Disease)
Research published in the Journal of Periodontology corroborates something dentists have observed anecdotally for years: smoking cigarettes is closely related to developing gum disease. According to the study, smokers who intake 1.5 packs or more everyday are six times more likely to have gum disease than non-smokers. People who smoke .5 packs or less are still three times more likely to have gum disease than non-smokers. Luckily, the risk begins to diminish after a person quits smoking. Smokers who successfully quit the habit for 11 years were no longer at additional risk for gum disease.
Research shows that smoking regularly is related to permanent tooth loss. The Academy of General Dentistry, using the results of two long term studies conducted at Boston’s Tufts University, asserts that after ten years, men who smoke will lose an average 2-3 teeth, and women who smoke will lose an average 1-2 teeth. Although the exact cause remains unclear, most experts believe smoking causes tooth loss because either:
- The flow of blood and oxygen to the gums is impeded by the presence of tobacco, which reduces your body’s ability to fight gum disease
- Smoking increases the buildup of plaque and tartar, which prompts the development of gum disease.
Your Best Bet for Better Oral Health
Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. In addition to a healthier smile, you’ll dramatically increase your chances of enjoying better overall health and a longer life if you take steps now to break the habit. Tried-and-true smoking cessation programs, like the one provided by the American Cancer Society, can help you stay on track.