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Kick Butts Day is a national campaign for tobacco free kids.

Most people know that smoking is linked to lung cancer and heart disease. But did you know that smoking also wreaks havoc on your smile? It can do a lot more to your mouth than cause stains and bad breath. As smoke passes through your teeth and gums, your mouth is the place where carcinogens in cigarettes gain access to the rest of you.

A smoker’s smile is prone to gum disease, tooth loss and oral cancer. So listen-up kids and adults!

Gum Disease – Smoking may account for around 75 percent of periodontal disease (gum disease) in adults. Kids – you don’t want gum disease! It causes bad breath, swollen and bleeding gums, sensitivity to cold (think no ice cream) or even just chewing. Healthy gums stay snug up around the base of the teeth, providing protection to the sensitive roots. Smoking irritates gum tissue and reduces blood flow, causing the gums to pull away from the teeth. The risk of gum disease increases with the amount you smoke. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those who smoked less than half a pack per day were three times as likely to suffer from periodontal disease (than nonsmokers), and those who smoked more than a pack and a half per day were at six times the risk.

Tooth loss – A person’s smile is one of the first attributes we notice about new people we meet. A missing tooth can really affect our outward appearance and our inward self-esteem. Smokers are susceptible to inflammation of the salivary glands and a strange condition known as Black Hairy Tongue. Black Hairy Tongue refers to growths on the tongue, making it look hairy and turning it yellow, green, brown or black. That doesn’t sound attractive at all!

Oral Cancer – Smoking is a primary cause of throat and oral cancers. Oral cancers are particularly life threatening because they tend to be painless and small, so oral cancer is frequently discovered only in the late stages. The good news is that usually your dentist or doctor can see or feel tissue changes in its earliest stages. Oral cancer screening is a routine part of your Smiles Dental checkups. Learn more about oral cancer at the Oral Cancer Foundation.

Smokers tend to have exasperated oral health problems and the effects of smoking can make it extremely difficult to live a healthy lifestyle. So if you don’t smoke, don’t start! If you are a smoker, consider quitting and start by seeing your dentist to evaluate your oral health. Your dentist can help you decide on a plan to quit smoking and will provide any necessary dental treatment to repair the damage that’s been done.

So go out there and Kick Butts and keep you and your smile healthy!