Where There’s Smoke… How Tobacco Affects Your Dental Health

November 17th is the 36th annual Great American Smokeout, a holiday created to help smokers quit. The American Cancer Society sponsors rallies, meetings, and educational events across the country; the Smokeout website features quitting aids like smoking cost calculators and desktop widgets. Quitting smoking is beneficial to your overall well-being, your wallet, and your oral health. Here are just a few of the dental problems caused by tobacco

Slow Wound Healing: Smokers take longer to heal after oral surgery, tooth extractions, and placement of dental implants. The heat from lighting up irritates soft tissues in your mouth, and the chemicals in cigarette smoke hinder your normal healing mechanisms. Carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide decrease oxygen transport and increase platelet adhesiveness, making internal blood clots more likely to form. Nicotine restricts blood flow and reduces production of red and white blood cells. Dry mouth, or xerostomia, caused by smoking also increases healing time and makes you more vulnerable to infection

Periodontal Disease: The factors that slow healing time also increase the likelihood of periodontitis, or gum disease. 80% of Americans have gum disease, and those who have it may not know they do. Red, tender, swollen gums that bleed during brushing or flossing are signs of periodontal disease. If left untreated, periodontitis becomes irreversible, and leads to bone loss and possible loss of teeth. Gum disease has also been linked to increased risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, pregnancy complications, and Alzheimer’s disease

Cancer: Use of tobacco and alcohol are the most known risk factors for oral cancer, but cases in young patients without these risks are increasing. Oral cancer is one of the most aggressive forms of the disease, and early detection is essential to a good prognosis. If diagnosed in stage I, patients’ five-year survival rate is about 90%. Unfortunately, since about two-thirds are caught in stage II or III, the overall five-year survival rate hasn’t risen much above 50% for decades. Screening for oral cancer only takes about five minutes.

Now is a great time to go “cold turkey” before enjoying your Thanksgiving turkey. Dr. Brad Greenfield can help you quit, and deal with any dental mishaps smoking may have caused. Be honest – about 22% of smokers lie to their dentists about it. Call Lake Orion Family Dentistry today at (248) 693-6213 to schedule your appointment. We serve patients in Lake Orion, Oxford, Auburn Hills, and surrounding areas.