The mouth is the first organ that takes the brunt of smoking. The teeth, lips, cheeks, tongue are all affected by smoking. While most are worried about the discoloration of the teeth and lips, the damage is actually quite deep rooted literally and figuratively. The harmful effects of smoking reach the roots and eventually lead to tooth loss.
Let us look at some ways how smoking affects the teeth.
1. The black stains that are the tell-tale signs of a smoker are a major source of irritation to the teeth, especially along the gum line. On one hand, they do not allow proper cleaning of the gums and on the other, they are a constant source of irritation leading to inflammation. The result is there is damage beneath that layer of black stains, which does not become visible unless the signs of infection become evident pain, redness, swelling or even pus formation in some cases.
2. Smoking conceals the gum disease from becoming evident, thereby, reducing the chance of identifying and treating the disease at an early stage. This progresses to more severe periodontal disease, where the bones and supporting tissues that hold the tooth in place are infected and gradually the tooth weakens.
3. The nicotine in the smoke also promotes the growth of bacteria that lead to plaque formation and thereby worsen the pace at which gum disease happens.
4. Another aspect is that in smokers, the ability of the gums to heal is reduced drastically, thereby, leading to progressive incremental damage and eventual tooth loss.
5. Nicotine reduces the amount of minerals in bones and especially in postmenopausal female smokers, the bones are quite weak and the incidence of periodontal disease is also quite high.
To summarize, for smokers, the risk for gum disease is higher and the recovery of gum disease is delayed. The duration and number of cigarettes has a direct effect on the gum disease. Of note, the effects are more severe in females, compared to males.
The good news however, is that quitting smoking (and other forms of nicotine) can show immediate results, including complete reversal of the damage. Other ways to manage include:
1. Regular brushing and flossing, twice a day at least
2. Rinsing after each meal with either a medicated rinse or plain water
3. Clinical cleaning including scaling and root planing if required at regular intervals
4. Minor surgery if required if there is root exposure and/or deep periodontal pockets
5. Abstain from tobacco in any form
Smoking affects the gums and periodontium severely, tooth loss has a strong and direct correlation with smoking. Not many would have thought about the adverse effects of smoking on the dental system. While they sound very alarming, there is definitely hope, with the first step as quitting it. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a Dentist.