How Smoking Is Affecting Your Smile
Did you know that your dentist could save your life? *Dramatic soap opera sound*
It is estimated that around 80,000 deaths in England each year are attributable to smoking and one in every two smokers will die from a smoking-related illness. The saddest part is that it is preventable. These deaths wouldn't happen if we didn't smoke; seems so odd when put into those simple terms.
One of the first places a smoker will see some smoking-related effects are in and around their mouths. Here are some of the ways that smoke ruins your smile…
In a world of selfies and Facebook, a good smile is noticed. It's one of our most sought-after visual factors and we spend loads on getting the perfect smile. Yet, smoking will quickly discolour your teeth. The normally off-white gnashers will develop a yellow stain to them that will gradually become darker.
Smokers have wrinkled skin around their mouths. This is because nicotine in smoke narrows blood vessels meaning less oxygenated blood and vitamins reach the skin surface. Plus there are 4,000 chemicals in smoke that destroy the skin's collagen and elastin causing sagging and wrinkles before your time.
Plaque and Tartar
Smoking can contribute to the increased buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth. This can often be cleaned off by a dental hygienist. However plaque can develop on the root of the teeth causing the bone supporting the tooth to break down. This leads to tooth loss and the not inconsiderable pain of root canal treatment.
There are also more serious risks to your teeth that come with smoking, such as an increased risk of gum disease. Smoking can cause gingivitis, which is when the bacteria in plaque attacks gums and makes them bleed. This in turn can lead to periodontitis where the gum and bone pulls away from the teeth eventually causing tooth loss.
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 and are difficult to heal because of the mouth's moist nature. AND because smoking slows gum healing it can mean that sores caused by these diseases will remain open for some time. This is a painful and unsightly cycle of cause and effect. Gum disease is not something you want to have.
Smokers have bad breath. Not only does it smell of a used ashtray but gum disease causes rotting smells too. It doesn't matter how often you brush your teeth or what flavour gum you chew; smoke makes your mouth smell.
Who wants to smile with discoloured teeth and bleeding gums? The effects of smoking so seriously damage your smile it can lead to a total loss of confidence and self esteem. Not to mention that smokers have to go outside to smoke now, and that can be a lonely cold place.
Oral cancer is more often called mouth cancer, but it can occur on the tongue, lips, gums, salivary glands, tonsils and pharynx. It's attributable to the HPV virus too, but smoking is still the major cause of mouth cancer. 93% of cancers in the oropharangeal part of the throat are caused by smoking. Mouth cancer usually appears between the ages of 50-74 years.
Symptoms of mouth cancer include:
- red or white patches on the lining of your mouth or tongue
- a lump
Your dentist may notice these changes, or question you on your mouth symptoms and refer you to your GP. If you spot any of these signs see your doctor straight away.
Many of the early signs are similar to gum disease, but catching cancer early can make a significant difference to the chance of a full recovery.
What to do
- Stop smoking - Not only can it kill you but it destroys your good looks. If you want to stop smoking there are treatments to help. The NHS has a stop smoking program, and your doctor or dentist can support you too. It's never too late to stop smoking because each cigarette or cigar seriously damages your health.
- Be vigilant - By watching out for a few early signs, you can often tell whether your teeth are seriously affected by your smoking 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.
- Keep your dentist appointments - If you smoke it's important to visit your dentist regularly. If your dentist spots mouth cancer early, you're more likely to recover. Not to mention it'll improve your looks and avoid painful dental procedures to save your teeth. There are effects on your teeth from smoking that may take some time to show clearly, however let your dentist know that you smoke so they can be extra sure to check you for smoke-related oral issues.
The moral is, if you smoke it's going to ruin your smile, cause pain, infections, wrinkles and even kill you. There are no upsides to smoking. Quitting for good is the best thing you can do for your smile.