Smoking - One way to lose your teeth

Posted by Dr. Edward Magida | Filed under

Read any romantic novel and I'm sure somewhere there is a reference made about how someone of the opposite sex "took the breath away" of someone else. Read a little more and another character in the plot will light up a cigarette. That too will "take someone's breath away," since we all know by now (or we should) that smoking is a bad habit and can ruin your health.

Let me give you another reason to stop the use of tobacco, but since I am a dentist, it will have a dental spin. Smoking has been shown to contribute to tooth loss. Any use of tobacco products including cigars, cigarettes, pipes and chewing tobacco, helps in the development of periodontal disease. A recent study published in the Journal of Periodontology states that smoking may be responsible for more than half of the cases of periodontal disease among adults in the United States. The study found that current smokers are about four times more likely than people who have never smoked to have advanced periodontal disease. Other studies have found that current smokers have more plaque and periodontal destruction than people who do not smoke.

Tobacco users tend to have more tartar form around their teeth, have deeper pockets around and between their teeth, and have lost more of the bone and tissue that support the teeth. It is this loss of bone and supporting tissue that leads to tooth loss. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 20% of people over age 65 who have never smoked are toothless, while 41.3% of daily smokers are toothless.

Those people who indulge in smokeless or chewing tobacco have not been left out. They are also at greater risk of having more severe and rapidly progressing gum disease. They are also more prone to receding gums. When the gums recede to the point where the tooth root is exposed, then sensitivity to cold and/or touch can increase as well as susceptibility to tooth decay on the portion of the tooth now exposed. Oral cancer development increases with increased smokeless tobacco use.

The good news here, as I'm sure you have heard before, is that oral health will improve once you quit smoking. The Journal of Periodontology study showed that 11 years after quitting, former smokers' likelihood of having periodontal disease was not significantly different than from those who had never smoked. The sooner you quit, the better off you will be.

To conclude, tobacco use comes with problems. These problems include oral cancer, bad breath, stained teeth, tooth loss, bone loss, loss of taste, less success with periodontal treatment and dental implants, mouth sores and wrinkles on your face. If these are not enough reasons to stop smoking, than let me add a few more. Smoking has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, poorly controlled diabetes, respiratory disease and premature babies. For now, I do not know of a study that links smoking with an increased lack of reasoning, but it may be out there!

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