It is pretty evident that smoking stains teeth. However, the damage smoking can do to teeth and oral hygiene is much more extensive than many people realize.
Smoke particles can remain in the throat and lungs for some hours so the smell from smoking can linger for some time. Also repeatedly inhaling hot gases dries out the mouth. This results in what is called “Dry Mouth”. One of the roles of saliva is to break down the food which can contribute to bad breath. So while a smoker can chew gum or eat mints, these are just covering up an underlying condition.
Another problem with dry mouth from smoking is tooth decay. Some other roles of saliva in the mouth are: lubrication, dilution of sugars, antimicrobial and cleansing activity, aides in tissue repair, and remineralization of enamel with calcium and phosphates. So when the mouth is dry there is not enough saliva to carry out these functions. This can result in bacteria growing out of control resulting in cavities.
A constant supply of oxygen through our blood circulation system is vital for any healing process and for resistance to infection in our bodies. Smoking decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood and thereby to the mouth. Not only can this contribute to gum disease but also it can also be deceptive. Because there is less oxygen in the blood to the mouth it can appear in a smoker that there is less inflammation than in non-smokers. The reason for this is due to a constriction in blood vessels in the facial area. This constriction does not simply go away once people stop smoking but lasts for a while after smoking has stopped. This reduction of inflammation around the gums may also lead to a false sense of security that the gums are healthy.
Smoking lowers estrogen levels in both men and women. Estrogen is important because it helps the bones to hold calcium and other minerals that make them strong.
In summary, smoking sets the stage for cavities, gum disease and bone loss which can be very painful, not to mention requiring extensive treatment to repair the damage when it can be repaired.
What can you do if you are a smoker?
Of course the best advice is to quit smoking. But whether you do or not there are some other actions you can take to help preserve the health of your mouth and teeth.
Regularly brush and floss your teeth – at least 3 times a day, especially in the morning first thing when you wake and in the evening before you go to bed.
Use fluoride toothpaste to strengthen your teeth.
Rinse your mouth with a fluoride mouth wash every time after you smoke.
Use oral probiotics. Oral probiotics help to increase the good bacterial in your mouth which combats the harmful bacteria. There are many products on the market for you to choose from.
Keep your 6 months appointments with your hygienist. This is vital so that you keep good oral hygiene but also so that you and your dentist work as a team to catch cavities and/or gum disease before they get out of control.
Call the Fair Oaks Quality Dental office if you have any questions or would like to set up an appointment. I’m always here for any questions you may have.
Dr. Nahid Afshari, DDS