A close-up of doctor's hands breaking a cigarette

On World No Tobacco Day, Think About These Five Effects On Oral Health

Groundhog Day. Black Friday. Columbus Day. No, they're not all nostalgic 90s movies. They're technically holidays. Whether they're worth celebrating — that's debatable. A cause that we can get behind, though, is World No Tobacco Day. It was created by the World Health Organization (WHO) and celebrated every year on the 31st day of May. Its mission is to bring awareness to the health complication caused by tobacco and encourage tobacco users of all kinds to once and for all quit. The American Dental Association cites many oral health impacts of tobacco products. The 5 highlighted below are widespread and not only affect your oral health but also your own vitality.

1) Gum Disease

It's not an obsession with chewing gum. Gum disease is when your gums are inflamed, infected, and may bleed when you brush. Without proper treatment, your gums and tissue around your teeth can become irritated and recede away from the teeth. The bacteria found in plaque is most often the culprit for the infection. But you should know:

  • Tobacco is also a guilty party as smokers who smoke 1.5 packs per day are 6 times more likely than nonsmokers to have periodontal disease, according to Delta Dental
  • Smoking can limit blood vessel growth, which slows the healing process for damaged gums
  • Fortunately, smokers that quit can return their risk of gum disease to that of a nonsmoker in about 11 years

2) Oral Cancer

We're all aware of how lung cancer plagues smokers. But oral cancer is also found in both smokers and those who chew tobacco. According to Health Canada:

  • The chemicals found in tobacco are carcinogenic as your oral tissues are exposed to these chemicals when smoked or chewed, and then the cells in your oral tissue mutate, which could lead to tumors
  • It usually develops on the tongue, lower lip, and floor of your mouth and often looks like your average mouth sore that never heals
  • The treatment required for oral cancer could require radiation, surgery, or if widespread, removal of part of your jawbone
  • After 10 to 20 years of quitting, the risk decreases to almost that of someone who has never smoked

3) Delayed Healing

Your body's ability to heal itself with its immune system is imperative. To heal properly, blood and oxygen flow is necessary. Smoking slows down your blood flow throughout your oral cavity and thus, delays the healing process. Because of this, simple dental procedures would become more complicated:

  • Your implant would have a better chance to fail
  • Your tooth extraction site would be prone to infection
  • Your gum disease treatment would be less effective

4) Stained Teeth

The biggest sources of stained teeth are food (coffee, red wine, etc.) and tobacco. The first is fine in moderation. Tobacco, however, is not. It's the nicotine and tar found in cigarettes that are doing the staining — from your hands and walls in your home to your pearly whites. You should know:

  • The outer layer of your teeth could turn to a yellow or even a shade of brown
  • Veneers and crowns are also prone to staining from tobacco
  • A dentist-recommended whitening treatment can significantly help
  • But the whitening treatment will only be effective if the tobacco usage ceases

5) Bad Breath

While you may think bad breath doesn't affect your oral health, just your social life, you'd be wrong. Habitual smoking can leave a residual tobacco smell, but bacteria buildup can also cause bad breath or halitosis. That's a sour combination that can lead to gum disease and requires:

  • Regular brushing and flossing
  • Regular rinsing with mouthwash
  • Brush or use a tongue scraper to clean the tongue regularly
  • Quit tobacco usage completely

These 3 oral health complications are just the tip of the tobacco iceberg. According to the WHO:

  • More than 8 million people die from tobacco use every year
  • Second-hand smoke exposure causes 1.2 million deaths every year
  • 65,000 children die each year due to illnesses related to second-hand smoke

It's much easier to preach it than to do it, but if you need help to quit smoking or chewing, it's never too late. Talk with your dentist to create a quitting plan that's best for you and your oral health. Then you can celebrate World No Tobacco Day every day for the rest of your healthier life.

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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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