Close-up of a woman in a gray shirt breaking a cigarette in half

How to Quit Smoking and Protect Your Oral Health

Smoking cigarettes makes your teeth yellow and your breath stink. It can also lead to serious health issues. E-Cigarettes may not discolor your teeth, but they carry the same risks associated with regular cigarettes. The sooner you quit, the sooner you can start reversing the damage already done to your oral and overall health. You can do it. Here’s how to get started.

Understand How Smoking Affects Your Oral Health

Smoking stains your teeth and tongue and interferes with your sense of taste and smell. According to the CDC, If you smoke, you are more likely to develop gum disease because smoking weakens your immune system’s response to bacteria. According to the FDA, smoking also causes carbon monoxide to enter your blood, robbing your body of the oxygen it needs. If you have dental surgery, you may be slower to heal, putting you at risk for post-op complications. Oral cancer is one of the most severe potential consequences of smoking.

Have a Plan to Help You Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking is hard, but it’s doable. A study in Biological Psychiatry shows that about three months after you stop, your brain dopamine — which is connected to reward and addiction — will return to normal levels. Your brain will begin to get used to not smoking, putting you on the path to breaking the cycle of addiction. Here are a few tips to help you quit for good:

  1. Make a fresh start. Make an appointment with your dental professional and have your teeth professionally cleaned. Seeing and feeling your shiny clean teeth will make you want to keep them that way.
  2. Trash your smoking life. Get rid of all cigarettes, ashtrays, matches, and lighters. Also, get rid of any triggers that can create cravings.
  3. Incorporate healthy oral substitutes. Having nutritious snacks around — like carrots, celery, and sunflower seeds — can help curb your urge to smoke. Not hungry? Have some sugar-free chewing gum. Staying hydrated can all help, too.
  4. Freshen the air. Clean up your car and home to remove the smell of cigarettes. You don’t need a reminder of old habits; plus, the fresh scent can encourage you to keep going.
  5. Get a pep talk if you need it. Talk to your dental professional. Though the first few weeks are the hardest and you may be very tempted to smoke, cravings will soon be few and far between. When in doubt, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
  6. Feel like smoking? Brush your teeth instead. You won’t be smoking, and you’ll be making your breath fresh and removing smoking stains.

Whether you smoke tobacco or e-cigarettes, you’re putting your oral health at risk. Discolored teeth, bad breath, gum disease, and even oral cancer all become possibilities. Make a plan to quit smoking today. You can start by contacting your dental professional to schedule an oral exam and professional cleaning appointment.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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