Smoking…..we have all heard about the terrible effects it has on our lungs. However, smoking also has many negative effects in the mouth. It is also one of the leading causes of bad breath. Its harmful implications affect the teeth, gums and oral mucosa.
Smoking results in a higher risk of widespread tooth decay, therefore leading to toothache and further general discomfort. This decay will break down the structural integrity of the teeth. If left untreated, it is often difficult to fix and may require extraction to prevent spread of further infection. Smoking additionally leads to deep staining on the teeth. This staining is very difficult to remove. Most people then regularly aim to remove these stains via vigorous tooth brushing techniques with far coarser toothpastes. However, the consequence of this is long term generalised dental sensitivity to hot and cold stimuli.
Smoking has also been linked to periodontal gum disease. This disease is where the gums and jawbone recede from the teeth, and it may lead to the teeth becoming loose if advanced. It is a very undesirable condition, where there is no cure, and the condition can only be managed. Having loose teeth is very uncomfortable to chew with and does not have an aesthetic appearance. In severe cases, these teeth need to be extracted, resulting in greater difficulty in chewing.
Lastly, studies have shown that smoking may cause alterations in the oral mucosa. The alterations may vary quite markedly, and lead to the development of conditions from oral candidiasis to lichen planus. Studies have also shown that smoking leads to higher risks of mouth cancer. The most deadly of which is known as squamous cell carcinoma. If detected too late, it may be extremely unfavourable for the patient. It is highly recommended that these checks for oral cancer are undertaken periodically.
Dr Matthew Kei