Smoking Harmful to Oral Health
Question: “Dr. Arnold, my son is eighteen, and he began smoking this year. I understand the health risks, but can you explain the dental problems associated with smoking?”
Answer: We all know the well-documented effects that smoking can have on one’s overall health. Just a few of these include increased risk for cardiovascular (heart) problems, lung cancer, and low birth-weight babies. In fact, research estimates that smokers live an average of fourteen years less than non-smokers.
Unfortunately, smoking can also have a profound impact on one’s oral health, too. The use of tobacco products greatly increases the risk for and can elevate the severity of periodontal (gum and bone) disease, which is one of the leading causes of tooth loss for Americans.
It can also exacerbate gum recession, which leads to exposure of the root surfaces of teeth. These root surfaces are often very sensitive to temperature changes, sweets, and any type of abrasion (such as brushing one’s teeth). These exposed areas are also more prone to decay (cavities).
Oral cancer is another common sequella of tobacco use. Cancer of the mouth sometimes goes undetected until it is too late. It often grows rapidly and can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated quickly. A good dental team will screen for oral cancer at each visit, so please make sure that your son sees his dentist regularly.
Smoking after a tooth is extracted (removed) can lead to what is known as a dry socket. This is an infection that can develop in an extraction site and can be very painful. Tobacco use must be discontinued for at least seventy-two hours after tooth removal to decrease the likelihood of a dry socket.
Other potential problems include increased staining and tartar buildup, bad breath, and the possibility of diminished senses of taste and smell.
The longer (and more) that one smokes, the more likely they are to have the aforementioned oral health problems. I would encourage you to help your son stop smoking as soon as possible to decrease the risk factors associated with this obviously unhealthy habit.
Dr. Jim Arnold is a practicing dentist in Chesterton and Valparaiso. He is also a clinical mentor with the Hornbrook Group and serves on the Advisory Board for the Academy of Comprehensive Esthetics as the Fellowship Chairman. You may send questions to his office at: 1830 South 11th Street, Chesterton, IN 46304 or email them to: drarnold@SmilesByArnold.com. More information on this or many other dental topics can be found at www.SmilesByArnold.com.