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We have all read, been told, and heard that smoking is unhealthy. It’s been the topic of numerous studies on the causes of lung cancer and heart disease, and it can ruin your overall health. Funny thing, is dental health directly affects overall health. So if an activity such as smoking can affect your overall health, it also may be able to cause oral health problems.

There are the cosmetic effects of smoking: bad breath, yellow or discolored teeth, and Black Hairy Tongue. The latter occurs when dead skin cells are not rubbed from the tongue and become elongated, trapping tobacco, food and bacteria within the taste bud “hairs.”

Tobacco use can cause problems that go much deeper than just the smile. Smoking frequently can result in inflamed salivary glands, increased build-up of plaque and tartar—resulting in a higher risk of periodontal and gum disease, tooth loss, delayed healing after oral surgery or extraction, lower success with dental implants, and oral cancer or cancer of the throat.

If you’re wondering whether smokeless tobacco is a better alternative to smoking, think about the kinds of chemicals that are in snuff or chewing tobacco. They are similar in their addictive and cancerous qualities. Smokeless tobacco often irritates gum tissue, compounding the recession of gumline, and ultimately increasing risk of tooth decay.

“About 90% of people with cancer of the mouth, lips, tongue, and throat use tobacco, and the risk of developing these cancers increases with the amount smoked or chewed and the duration of the habit. Smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop these cancers.” –WebMD.com

Talk to your dentist about how smoking or using other tobacco products may be affecting your oral health. You can work with your dental health professional to outline a treatment plan that leads to successful quitting of the habit. Keep your smile and your life healthy by just saying, “No” to tobacco.