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Dr Chris Darby

Dr Chris Darby

Smoking and Oral Health

Here at Lifetime Holistic Dentistry, we care about more than just your teeth. We’re here to help with your overall health and wellbeing. The practice of Holistic dentistry is focused on your complete health. This is why we always take lifestyle factors, such as smoking, into account when we perform a check-up and design a treatment plan that is tailored specifically for you.

The Most Obvious Connection

If you’re a smoker, you need to inform your dentist. This is because an oral cancer exam should be part of your regular dental check-ups. The links between tobacco use and many forms of cancer are well documented and beyond doubt. Oral cancers have good treatment rates if they are detected early, and your dentist will often be your best chance of early detection.

But, cancer isn’t the only effect of smoking on your oral health.

Other Effects of Smoking on Oral Health

If you have a tobacco habit, you may want to think about quitting. Not only is smoking proven to cause cancer, it can also cause a whole range of other oral health issues:

  • Nicotine stains on teeth and dental restorations, like veneers and implants
  • Reduced sensations to smell and taste
  • Various oral diseases, including:
    • Smoker’s palate: white or grey patch on the roof of the mouth
    • Coated tongue: swollen or overgrown papillae on the tongue, which results in a white appearance
    • Smoker’s melanosis: brown to black pigmentation of the mouth tissue, including the gum and cheeks
    • Oral candidiasis: also known as oral thrush, this is a yeast infection of the tongue and mouth
  • Increased rates of dental cavities and infections
  • Further risk of gum disease and periodontitis
  • Failure of dental treatments, including implants

Possibly the most worrying aspect about all these issues is that smoking doesn’t just cause these issues; smoking actually makes these issues harder to treat. In the case of gum disease, tooth loss and dental cavities, the treatments can actually be undone by smoking.

In the case of tooth loss, smoking causes increased rates of gum infection. This can progress to periodontitis, which in turn leads to bone loss density and tooth loss. The loss of bone density makes it difficult to perform an implant treatment as there isn’t enough bone to attach the implant to.

In the case of dental cavities, smoking opens up our teeth and gums to more risk of decay. This means that fillings have to be used over and over again until extraction is the only option. And we already know how the treatment for extractions—dental implants—work out for smokers.

The Role of Your Dentist in Addressing Nicotine Use

Our holistic dentists are not just here to treat the effects of smoking on your oral health. We are here to provide education on exactly how you can address your smoking habit to prevent further harm. Just as a dentist will tell you to cut back on sugary foods, or brush your teeth more often, a good dentist will also inform you that your nicotine use is—and will continue to—cause you harm.

A good dentist will also understand the difficulties involved in giving up this habit, and offer helpful advice on how you can live a life without smoking.

Your motivations for quitting the habit could include:

  • Money: Not only is smoking an expensive habit, it creates costly health issues. Tooth extractions, implants and whitening to address staining will all cost you money. These out of pocket expenses could all be avoided by giving up smoking.
  • Aesthetics: There’s no way to put this politely. Smoking makes your mouth look ugly. It causes wrinkles around the lips, it stains teeth and leads to all the unsightly and very obvious conditions listed above. Of course, cosmetic dentistry can address some of these issues, but it does come at a cost. And, if you continue to smoke, you’ll just stain your newly whitened teeth or veneers.
  • Life Quality: Oral health issues like gum disease and oral cancers caused by smoking are painful. That’s not to mention the even more life-affecting conditions like emphysema. Everybody deserves to live a life without a pain, which is why quitting the habit is so vital for your life quality.
  • Longevity: Smoking will kill you. The evidence is clear, and the few outliers should not give you confidence. If you’re interested in living a long life, this is the best place to start.

Your dentist could be your greatest ally in your quest to quit the nicotine. Dentists don’t even have to ask if a patient smokes because the evidence is in the mouth. Don’t let that evidence become something more serious, talk to your dentist today.

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