Impact of tobacco products on your oral health

Bad breath: when you smell it, you want to quickly hand the offender a piece of chewing gum or a mint.

While bad breath often results from the foods we consume, it can also come from periodontal disease. Periodontal or gum disease is caused by bacteria in your mouth that progressively attack the gums and hidden roots of your teeth.

A significant contributor to periodontal disease may be tobacco products, according to a recent study from the American Academy of Periodontalogy. While treatments are available for individuals with periodontal disease, unfortunately, they are less successful for those who use tobacco.

Tobacco comes in all forms of products from cigarettes and cigars to pipes, snuff, or chews.  While most Americans recognize that tobacco usage is addictive, and generally unhealthy, they may not consider the potential dangers to their oral health or the risk of oral cancer.

Crusty Plaque on Your Teeth
Individuals who smoke have a higher incidence of developing calculus on their teeth – a tough plaque that can only be removed during professional cleaning by dental professionals.  The calculus tends to develop in deep pockets between teeth and gums and can result in the loss of bone and the tissue that supports the teeth.

Tobacco usage can create these oral problems:

  • Mouth sores
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth decay
  • Bad breath
  • Discoloration of teeth
  • Decreased ability to taste or smell

What’s Important?
When oral cancer is detected in advanced stages, only 50% of patients survive longer than 5 years.

  • Between 40-60% of smokeless tobacco users have a lesion in the mouth where tobacco is stored. Lesions occur within a few months of use.
  • Cigarette, pipe, and smokeless tobacco products have equivalent harmful effects.

The Best Recommendation?
For the sake of your long-term oral health and to minimize the risk of oral cancer, the best solution is to stop using tobacco. Routine dental examinations can help detect tobacco-related illnesses in and around the oral cavity during stages that are more curable.

Let me know …. Do you know someone who might be a candidate for tobacco-related illness? If you use tobacco, are you visiting your dentist regularly? Share your thoughts and I’ll post responses. –Ken

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