The Smoking Epidemic
Smoking remains one of the greatest health challenges facing not only the United States but the world at large. Estimates put the number of worldwide deaths directly attributed to smoking at 100 million people between 1900 and 1999. In contrast, the same sources project as many as 1 billion preventable deaths in the 21st century as a result of smoking.
The sheer quantity of death and human suffering as a result of tobacco use and addiction is staggering. In the United States, smoking is still the number one leading cause of disease and death, killing more than 480,000 Americans every year.
For every smoking-related death, another 30 people continue to live with a disease or condition caused by tobacco use. The economic toll for such untold suffering amounts to $289 billion a year of direct medical costs and lost productivity. The health effects of smoking are widespread and well documented.
Nonetheless, there are reasons to be hopeful. Thanks to decades of rising public awareness and education efforts, smoking is on the decline. The public health implications of the declining popularity of smoking and tobacco use are enormous.
From 1975 to 2000, nearly 800,000 deaths have been prevented in the United States alone as a result of declining tobacco use according to a study by Rice University. One of the most significant trends driving the decline of smoking and tobacco use is that people are more aware of the importance of health and healthy living as crucial ingredients to not only living a long and fulfilling life but also for personal attractiveness. Where once smoking was perceived as cool, young, and rebellious, it is now associated with premature aging, cancer, and bad teeth.
No one likes bad teeth.
That’s right, one of the places the aesthetic destruction caused by smoking is most apparent is your smile.
Tobacco Teeth: How Smoking Affects Your Mouth
Not only is smoking and tobacco use detrimental to your overall health, but it is also particularly damaging to your mouth, gums, and teeth, and contribute to a variety of dental and oral diseases.
Remember, a single cigarette contains approximately 600 known ingredients which, when burned or smoked, create over 7,000 different chemicals. Many of these chemicals, such as arsenic, formaldehyde, and lead are known toxins or carcinogens that are harmful to the human body. Small wonder then that inhaling or exposing your teeth and gum tissues to these toxins would result in long-term harm.
One of the most noticeable effects of smoking and tobacco use is dental staining. Smokers and even those who use smokeless nicotine products often exhibit noticeable signs of permanent discoloration. Nicotine and tar, two of the leading chemicals found in cigarettes, contribute heavily to this direct physical staining. Not only is nicotine the primary vector for addiction, but it also forms a yellow compound when exposed to oxygen.
While teeth may look entirely smooth to the naked eye, they are, in fact, quite porous. What that means is that they contain tiny microscopic indentations that can become filled with yellow nicotine, black tar, and other chemicals.
Users who opt for chewing tobacco are no better off since the tobacco product tends to stay in direct contact with the teeth and gums leading to a high likelihood of discoloration. In fact, chewing tobacco is one of the primary causes of leukoplakia, or red and white patches on the gums, which can be very unattractive. Worse, these patches of discolored tissues are considered precancerous lesions which, in time, have a high probability of developing into bonafide oral cancer.
A Smoker's Greatest Fear: Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is, perhaps, a smoker’s greatest fear, and a needless risk that can be avoided by merely abstaining from tobacco products. Nearly 50,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States. Of these, the vast majority of cases can be attributed to tobacco use. Oral cancer is widely considered by experts to be a so-called “lifestyle disease” in that it is entirely preventable and predicated on individual choices - not genetics.
Oral cancer is but one of many potential negative consequences of maintaining a smoking habit. Other areas of concern for smokers and tobacco users include destructive effects on the gums.
The many toxic chemicals found in both cigarettes and smokeless products irritate the gums and, over time, may result in periodontal diseases. Gum recession, as a result of prolonged exposure, irritates and gives teeth an unhealthy appearance and significantly increases the prospects of severe dental infections.
More nefariously, smoking also reduces a patient’s ability to heal and repair minor tissue damage and fight off infections. Smoking directly impairs a person’s immune system.
Gum disease always starts with bacteria. In an unhealthy mouth, bacteria builds up both on the teeth and below the gums. Over time, pockets of germs below the gums can eat away at the soft tissues of the gums and even the underlying bones. This is known as periodontitis, which is an advanced form of gingivitis that results in permanent dental harm. Worse, a periodontal disease often precludes patients from receiving rehabilitative dental implants since the underlying bone is too weak and damaged for implants.
5 Dental Health Reasons to Quit Smoking
1. Smoking Will Ruin Your Smile
Discoloration, gum recession, and other noticeable forms of oral distress often result in a smile that long-term smokers are embarrassed to show others.
2. Smoking Causes Oral Cancer
Smoking and tobacco use has been implicated as the primary causal agent behind the vast majority of oral cancer cases in the United States.
3. Smoking Makes Your Breath Unbearable
Smoking and tobacco use results in what is known as “smoker’s breath.” This affliction, while partially a result of the fumes from the product itself, has more to do with that fact that smoking encourages bacterial growth and impairs the body’s own immune system. Bacterial rot in the mouth results in stinky, unbearable bad breath.
4. Smoking Leads to All Sorts of Nasty Dental Diseases
Smoking not only causes cancer, but also directly contributes to many other oral afflictions including periodontal disease, gum recession, and even tooth loss.
5. Smoking Impairs Your Mouth’s Natural Healing Abilities
One of the most underlooked negative consequences of smoking is immune repression. Our mouths contain a rich microbiome of bacteria that are kept in check with routine dental hygiene and by our own body’s natural immune functions. When the immune system is suppressed, it cannot adequately fight off infection. As a result, severe infections and other dental stresses are more likely to develop leading to long-term damage.
Smoking is Not Attractive or Cool
Thanks to untold billions of dollars in advertising and influence-buying campaigns, smoking was once associated with rugged manliness and an effortless, youthful rebelliousness. This is no longer the case.
Current public consumption trends lean towards people, products, and ideas that promote health, not destroy it. As a result, there is nothing sexier or cooler today than a person is healthy, energetic, and capable of imposing their will upon the world. There is nothing less attractive than a tobacco-stained smile, premature aging, and losing your teeth as a result of a tobacco-related periodontal disease.
How to Repair Tobacco Teeth?
Unfortunately, for many smokers, the damage to their teeth and gums is well beyond the natural ability of their bodies to repair. In these cases, cosmetic dentistry, rehabilitative, and reparative dental treatments and procedures such as dental veneers, dental implants, All-On-4® dental implants, full-mouth reconstruction, and a smile makeover can go a long way towards turning back the clock and giving patients a smile they dream about.
In fact, smokers as a group could benefit greatly from just scheduling a simple dental examination or checkup at Willow Pass Dental Care. A dentist and Prosthodontist such as Dr. Reza Khazaie, DDS. can help smokers, and tobacco users identify potential dental concerns and recommend counteractive treatments. They can detect the early signs of oral or mouth cancers, gum disease, periodontal disease, and other conditions that benefit significantly from early diagnosis and treatment.
Looking to Quit Smoking?
We get it.
Smoking is an addiction.
But where there is a will, there's a way.
Quitting can be the best thing you can do for your teeth, and for your overall health.
Looking to quit smoking? Call 1-800-QUITNOW or go to "www.smokefree.gov."
Come to Willow Pass Dental Care to Learn More About Reparative Dentistry
Willow Pass Dental Care is dedicated to providing the best dental care, including preventative dentistry, for both children and adults. Dr. Reza Khazaie, DDS. a leading and well-respected Prosthodontist in the United States will help you in identifying any worrying signs of dental malaise before it gets out of hand, address any pressing dental concerns, and provide you with the care and advice you need to build healthy teeth and a beautiful smile.