Smoking impacts oral health; cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and other forms of tobacco can cause oral cancer, gum disease, and other oral health problems. Gum disease is one of the most common problems affecting smokers because they are more likely to produce bacterial plaque, which leads to gum disease. The gums are affected because smoking causes a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, so the infected gums fail to heal.
What are the most common oral problems affecting people who smoke?
- Gum (or periodontal) disease.
- Mouth cancer.
- Whitening of the soft tissue in the mouth (called smoker’s keratosis).
- Poor healing after tooth removal (known as a dry socket).
- Tooth decay.
- Tooth loss.
- Poor healing after the mouth and gum surgery.
- Decreased taste.
- Bad taste in the mouth and bad breath (called halitosis).
Tobacco smoking has been associated with the development of halitosis, as it increases the synthesis of toxic volatile sulfur compounds in diseased periodontal pockets; however, it is reversible. Brushing your teeth several times daily prevents staining and halitosis and protects against gum disease. There are different ways for smokers to avoid dental health problems.
How to prevent dental problems in smokers?
- Try to quit smoking.
- If you’re finding it difficult to quit smoking, try and reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke.
- Clean your teeth and gums twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Use dental floss (for small gaps) or interdental brushes (for significant gaps) once daily to clean your teeth.
- Visit an Intercare dentist every 6 to 12 months; for advice about proper dental care and finding problems early. Regular dentist visits can help to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
- Avoid having a dry mouth. Drink plenty of water and chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow.
- Limit alcohol intake.
Deciding to stop smoking is challenging for most tobacco users, as tobacco cravings or urges to smoke can be powerful. However, quitting smoking has many benefits; the sooner you stop, the better.
What are the benefits of giving up smoking?
- Fresh breath
- Unstained teeth
- Dental health will improve.
- The sense of smell and taste will significantly improve.
- Reduced risk of fatal diseases.
Resisting tobacco cravings is not easy; however, it is a step closer to stopping tobacco use for good. There are different ways to quit smoking and resist the urge when a craving strikes.
How to quit smoking?
- Try nicotine replacement therapy – such as nasal spray or inhaler, nicotine patches, gum and lozenges, and non-nicotine stop-smoking drugs (consult an Intercare doctor/dentist for prescription).
- Avoid triggers – Being around other people while they’re smoking can intensify your cravings.
- Delay – when feeling the urge to smoke, delay and tell yourself that you must first wait ten more minutes. Then do something to distract yourself during that time to avoid smoking.
- Chew on it – Give your mouth something to do to resist a tobacco craving. Chew on sugarless gum, hard candy, raw carrots, nuts, or sunflower seeds — something crunchy and tasty.
- Don’t have ‘just one’ – You might be tempted to have just one cigarette to satisfy a tobacco craving; Often, having just one leads to many more.
- Get physical – Physical activity can help distract you from tobacco cravings.
- Try relaxation techniques.
- Remind yourself of the benefits.
Even if you’ve smoked for many years, quitting can improve oral health and reduce the likelihood of gum disease and tooth loss. Regular dental visits can help fight gum disease and prevent tooth stains.