It's common knowledge that smoking cigarettes and other forms of tobacco products is terrible for your health. Tobacco causes lung cancer and greatly increases your chances of a heart attack. But there's another branch of health care that's equally concerned about tobacco smoke: dentists. Smoking is absolutely terrible for your teeth, gums, and cheeks. Here's a look at some of the consequences you can expect if you keep up your smoking habits.
Gum disease is often downplayed by those who don't know any better. You may think it's just a little bleeding or swelling of your gums when you brush. But while this is how gum disease starts, it's not how it ends. Gum disease can progress quickly, creating gaps between your teeth and your gums and also leading to erosion of the dental ligaments, which are the strips of connective tissue that anchor your teeth into your jaw bones. Once gum disease becomes this serious, you'll not only have terrible breath, but also loose and missing teeth. And you probably won't be a candidate for dental implants to replace them until your gums are in better health.
Smoking perpetuates gum disease because it dries out your mouth. When your mouth is dry, the oral bacteria that cause gum disease have a heyday, replicating faster than they are washed away and causing your symptoms to progress rapidly.
Advanced Tooth Decay
A little cavity is not such a big deal -- you dentist can treat it with a filling, and you'll be all set. But when you're a smoker, tooth decay can progress really quickly, thanks to the way smoking accelerates bacterial replication. What starts as a little cavity may cause half the tooth to erode away by the time you're able to see the dentist a few weeks later. And then your only options may be to have the tooth removed or a root canal performed.
The carcinogens in tobacco don't just affect your lungs. They come into contact with your cheek tissues before you inhale them, which can cause you to develop oral cancer. Oral cancer's initial symptoms, which include white spots on the cheeks and tingling, are easy to miss. So many cases are not detected until they're quite serious and the only option is surgical removal. If you don't want to have half your jaw removed to save your life, it's time to quit smoking.