Consider that your mouth is the first part of your body to come in contact with cigarette or cigar smoke. Although many people think of the lungs when it comes to the intake of cigarette or cigar smoke, the soft, moist oral tissues in the mouth are even more involved in the entry process.
The moist makeup of oral tissues also means they are absorbent. Thus, the chemicals in tobacco smoke are easily absorbed in the mouth. This smoke, in addition to added flavor substances, include a potent mixture of thousands of chemicals. At least 70 of these are known to cause cancer.
The chemicals in tobacco smoke include:
•Nicotine (an addictive drug and one of tobacco smoke’s most harmful chemicals)
•Radioactive elements, including uranium
While most of these substances cause cancer, many can also cause heart disease, lung disease or other serious health conditions. When it comes to dental implants, in particular, research published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3894084/) cites:
Smoking has its influence on general as well as oral health of an individual. Tobacco negatively affects the outcome of almost all therapeutic procedures performed in the oral cavity. The failure rate of implant osseointegration* is considerably higher among smokers, and maintenance of oral hygiene around the implants and the risk of peri-implantitis** are adversely affected by smoking.
*osseointegration is the process of bone growing around an implant to secure it in place.
**peri-implantitis is a destructive inflammatory process of gum tissues and bone structures surrounding dental implants.
Although e-cigs (vaping) are deemed ‘safe’ by their makers, the aerosols from these products can contain varying levels of nicotine, flavorings, and chemicals known to be toxic or to cause cancer. E-cigs deliver a less-potent level of chemicals, yet, the long-term effects are unknown. (www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/tobacco-and-cancer/carcinogens-found-in-tobacco-products.html)
Oral dryness is a particular challenge when it comes to one’s oral health. Smoking causes oral dryness, even moreso than age, many medications and certain foods and beverages (including caffeine and alcohol). Because of oral dryness, we caution patients who smoke that their healing times (for extractions, implant placement, gum grafting, etc.) will take longer.
In addition to slower healing, oral dryness creates a haven for oral bacteria to grow, thrive and accumulate. The longer it takes to heal, the higher your chances are for infection.
Saliva flow helps to keep bacteria-producing particles moving out of the ‘oral cavity’ (mouth). When saliva is depleted through the chemicals in tobacco smoke, these bacteria are able to run rampant.
As bacteria amass, the immune system tries to fight off infection. Eventually, however, bacteria can reach a level that can no longer be managed by your immune response. This is when oral bacteria cause periodontal (gum) disease, an infection that compromises the health of the gums and bone structures that support teeth.
When the infectious bacteria of gum disease are able to enter the bloodstream (through tears in diseased gum tissues), they can cause inflammatory triggers elsewhere in the body. Systemic inflammation has been associated with a long list of diseases, including heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and more.
Smoking and chewing tobacco causes an estimated 90 percent of oral cancers (mouth, lips, throat). Pregnant women who smoke have higher risks of first trimester spontaneous abortions, placenta abruption, preterm births, low birth weight babies and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
In addition to a higher risk for periodontal (gum) disease, smokers can expect bad breath, stained teeth and higher levels of plaque.
Smokers should know the signs of gum disease, which include persistent bad breath, gum tenderness, gums that bleed easily when brushing, gums that darken in color, and pus pockets form at the base of some teeth. As gum disease bacteria attacks the gum and tissues and bone that support tooth roots, teeth may loosen and require removal. Gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. (www.nidcr.nih.gov/DataStatistics/FindDataByTopic/GumDisease/)
If the thoughts of losing your natural teeth and having to wear dentures or partials concern you, then we can help — even if you continue to smoke. Through a diligent oral hygiene regimen and regular dental check-ups, you can keep your mouth healthy and decrease your risk for gum disease, tooth decay and tooth loss.
Or, if you’ve already lost natural teeth and are concerned about having a successful outcome with dental implants, let’s discuss this during a no-charge consultation appointment (that doesn’t include a lecture!). Call 910-254-4555.