Although the rates of tobacco use have fallen over the last few decades, it is still a widespread problem. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are nearly 30.8 million adults in the U.S. who smoke cigarettes. As of 2020, this is nearly 12.5% of the population.
Unfortunately, smoking or chewing tobacco has serious consequences for your overall health. For example, smoking cigarettes is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths. In addition, cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year, which is about 1 in 5 (CDC).
The effects of smoking are vast and can touch nearly every portion of the body. For example, people who smoke are more likely to develop asthma, loss of vision, diabetes, and cancer. In addition, smoking can have detrimental effects on your teeth and mouth.
Higher Risk of Gum Disease
If you smoke cigarettes or other tobacco products, you have a higher risk of developing gum disease. Gum disease is an infection that attacks the soft tissues of your gums. Without treatment, gum disease can ruin the connective tissues that keep your teeth in place. Additionally, gum disease can deteriorate bone and cause tooth loss. In its early stages, gum disease presents as bleeding, swollen, or inflamed gums. While it is treatable in most cases, smoking can make treatment more difficult.
It is not just a buildup of plaque that causes gum disease for smokers. Generally, poor oral health is one of the main causes of gum disease. When plaque builds along the gum line, the gums become irritated. If you don’t remove plaque, it can cause an infection.
While smoking does cause an increase in plaque production, it can also inhibit the ability of your gums to heal. More specifically, smoking inhibits proper blood flow to the gums. This reduces the ability of your gums to create new cells or repair damaged ones.
Increased Chances of Tooth Decay
It is common among people who smoke to experience tooth decay.
One reason for this growth is because the chemicals in cigarettes increase the production of plaque. Plaque is a type of harmful bacteria that attaches itself to every surface in your mouth. When you brush and floss your teeth, you remove plaque and reduce its destruction in your mouth. However, smoking aids in producing more bacteria, making it difficult to protect your teeth.
Along with more plaque, smoking can cause a condition called “dry mouth.” Dry mouth occurs when you do not produce enough saliva. Saliva is vital for a healthy mouth. Without it, you are more likely to develop tooth decay. This is because saliva helps to neutralize bad bacteria. In addition, your mouth requires a moist environment to stay healthy. If there is more plaque and less saliva, the chances of cavities and tooth decay increase dramatically.
Possibility of Oral Cancer
People who smoke or chew tobacco have a much higher risk of developing oral cancer. In fact, smokers have a five to ten percent higher chance of oral cancer compared to a nonsmoker.