If you smoke, the last thing you want to hear is yet another lecture on why you should quit. This is NOT what this article will do. You are likely already aware of the reasons. However, in our dental office, we pride ourselves on educating our patients and thoroughly communicating so they can make informed decisions.
The following will provide you with some basic information about what smoking does so you will simply have additional knowledge to either continue or consider options to help you quit.
Before we get into your smile, I’ll share some updated statistics on how smoking affects your overall health. You probably know that tobacco contains chemicals that are known to be harmful to the body. However, you may not realize that smokers shorten their life expectancy by 10 to 15 years, on average.
And, did you know that smoking is responsible for an estimated 30% of all cancer diseases and deaths? It is, and is the reason for 90% of all lung cancers. It increases the risk of pancreatic, cervical, kidney, liver, bladder and stomach cancer as well as leukemia. Smoking is also a cause for emphysema and other respiratory diseases, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Smoking and chewing tobacco causes 80 to 90% of oral cancers (mouth, lips, throat). For smokers who are also alcohol drinkers, their risk of oral cancer is even greater than the combined percentage of those who only smoke or only drink alcohol.
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). Women who smoke have greater potential for early menopause. Men who smoke have a higher risk for sperm abnormalities and impotency.
When it comes to your smile, which is cigarette smoke’s first contact, the risks continue. Smokers have a higher risk for periodontal (gum) disease, bad breath, stained teeth, higher levels of dental plaque, and slower healing periods after extractions, gum therapy or oral surgery. Smoking is one of the reasons for dental implant failure.
Smoking is terribly drying to oral tissues. This creates an environment that is ripe for the reproduction and accumulation of oral bacteria. Once gum disease begins, you will suffer with persistent bad breath, gum tenderness, gums that bleed easily when brushing and gums that darken in color. As gum disease worsens, pus pockets form at the base of some teeth. As gum disease bacteria eats away at bone and tissues that support tooth roots, some teeth will become loose and eventually require removal.
If you ever needed a reason to quit, look around at your loved ones around you who breathe in the deadly smoke you exhale. About half of inhaled smoke is exhaled and can cause immediate health damage to others. It is a contributing factor to the development of numerous diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
Young children are most affected by secondhand smoke. Studies show that children whose parents smoke get sick more often, have more infections like bronchitis and pneumonia, are more likely to cough and wheeze, and get more ear infections.
If you have failed to factor in your smile to the many reasons to NOT smoke, now you have an important one to add. Imagine losing your smile and having to wear dentures or partials to replace the teeth you lost due to the effects of smoking.
There are a number of online support sources for those who wish to quit. The American Cancer Society has excellent support tips online at:
I hope your newfound knowledge of what smoking does to your life helps you make the informed decision you feel is best for your peace of mind. No lectures here, but if you would like support in having the best potential for a healthy smile, call 910-254-4555 to schedule an examination.