How Tobacco Use Affects Your Oral Health
You’ve seen the message loud and clear on billboards, televised public service announcements and in every school and community center: tobacco use is bad for your health. While tobacco use can lead to cancer, emphysema, heart disease, stroke and fertility problems, smoking and the use of other tobacco products can also have serious consequences on your oral health.
Risks of tobacco use include:
- Oral, lung and throat cancer
- Bad breath and tooth discoloration
- Increased build up of plaque and tartar on the teeth, which can lead to the gum disease gingivitis
- Periodontitis and tooth loss
- Small, white precancerous lesions known as leukoplakia
How Does Tobacco Use Lead to Gum Disease?
Tobacco use increases the buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth. Smoking also impairs blood flow to the gums and halts the normal production and health of the gum cells. When it is difficult for gum tissue to repair itself, it becomes more susceptible to the bacteria found in plaque, deeming a tobacco user more likely to develop gingivitis. Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, occurs as bacteria in the plaque buildup affects the soft tissue. Gingivitis can lead to periodontitis and possible tooth loss.
Periodontal disease, or periodontitis, is when the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth and form pockets between the teeth and gums. When debris is caught in these pockets, the teeth and gums can become infected. The infection breaks down the bone, causing teeth to become loose from the bone, and eventually tooth loss can occur.
Tobacco Use and Oral Cancer
According to the American Cancer Society, oral cancer can occur in any part of the oral cavity, including the lips, tongue, mouth, cheeks and throat. The direct correlation between tobacco use and oral cancer is evident in the estimation that approximately 80 percent of patients with oral cancers have used or currently use tobacco. The risk of oral cancer increases with the frequency and duration of the tobacco habit.
Oral cancer most commonly appears as a sore that bleeds easily and never heals. White or red patches, persistent sore throat and even pain while chewing or pain localized within the mouth itself are all symptoms of oral cancer.
Effect of Smokeless Tobacco on Oral Health
Plain and simply: Smokeless tobacco is harmful to your health. Chewing tobacco, pipes and cigars are often touted as a “safer” use of tobacco. But evidence suggests that any tobacco use greatly increases your risk for heart disease, stroke as well as tooth decay and gum disease. Risks for oral and esophageal cancer, as well as pancreatic and kidney cancer are greatly increased with the use of smokeless forms of tobacco.
With a higher amount of nicotine, chewing tobacco has been found to be more addictive than cigarettes. Containing about 30 cancer-causing chemicals, the risks of this smokeless tobacco are a serious threat to your health.
Chewing tobacco contains high amounts of sugar and increases your risk for tooth decay and cavities. Sugar and other coarse particles can irritate the gums, causing the gums to pull away from the teeth, leading to the destruction of this soft tissue and possible periodontitis.