General Health Friday July 6, 2012

How does smoking affect your teeth?

It is estimated that around 102,000 people die every year from smoking related diseases. Many of these issues begin in the mouth and can be detected by your dentist if you are concerned. Looking out for early warning signs can make a significant difference to the chances of recovery and reduces the risk of needing to have teeth removed.

There are a number of ways in which smoking can affect your teeth. The one that many notice quite quickly is discolouring of the teeth. Teeth that are normally pearly white will develop a yellow stain to them which will gradually become darker. Smoking can also contribute to the increased build-up of plaque and tartar on the teeth. This can often be cleaned off by a dental hygienist. However you should be aware that plaque can develop on the root of the teeth, causing the bone supporting the tooth to break down.

There are also the more serious risks to your teeth that come with smoking. This includes an increased risk of issues such as gum disease, delayed healing process of the gum as well as increased risk of oral cancer. Gum disease is a very serious issue. As smoking slows the healing of the gum it can mean that the sores developed by the disease will remain open for some time, and if teeth eventually start growing back, they can be smaller than usual due to stagnant growth.

Research also shows that smoking can interfere with the function of gum tissue cells. This can lead to smokers attracting infections more easily. Contracting infections in the mouth can be very serious as they can spread quickly throughout the body. There are several different infections of the mouth that are commonly seen in smokers, one of these being periodontal disease, which impairs the flow of blood to the gums. This in turn can again affect the healing of the gums. If you have an open sore from a gum disease and then contract periodontal disease, there is a great risk of your teeth not growing back due to the tissue being weakened too much.

Smoking can greatly increase your risk of oral cancer. Those who smoke are six times more likely to develop oral cancers than people who do not smoke and 75% of those diagnosed with oral cancer are current or previous smokers. Many of the early signs are similar to gum disease, but catching the cancer early can make a significant difference to the chance of a full recovery.

By looking out for a few early signs, you can often tell whether your teeth are seriously affected by your habit. If you are experiencing bleeding from the gum or swelling around the tooth, red or tender gums, receding gums, or loose and shifting teeth, you should seek advice from a dentist immediately. There are effects on your teeth from smoking that may take some time to show clearly, however by letting you dentist know that you smoke you can ensure that you will be checked for all the problems mentioned above.

Ingunn Bjoru writes on behalf of Riverside Dental, a private dentist in Norwich specialising in teeth whitening and other cosmetic procedures.

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