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How does tobacco affect the health of your mouth?

You have repeatedly heard that ‘smoking seriously hurts your health’, but, do you know how? Perhaps the first answer that comes to mind is respiratory and lung problems. But there are more negative effects also linked to your oral health. And, when lighting a cigarette you do your skinny favor through various manifestations, ranging from small aesthetic changes to some types of cancer. In Oral B they have carried out a study that indicates that the scientific evidence that demonstrates the relationship between smoking and oral problems is very convincing and underlines the urgent need to encourage smoking cessation or, in case of maintaining the habit, encourage excellent oral hygiene to mitigate its effects to a greater extent.


Oral cancer, the most serious consequence

It is, without a doubt, the most serious problem related to tobacco. In Spain, for example, every year around 2,000 people develop oral cancer, whose associated mortality rate is still high, with a survival of only 50% 5 years after the development of the disease, although early detection increases Significantly survival odds. As pointed out by the Oral B brand, poor oral hygiene is a risk factor for developing oral cancer and patients who do not brush never have an increased risk of developing, in addition, esophageal cancer.


In addition, between 75% and 90% of all cases of oral cancer are linked to the combined effects of tobacco and alcohol consumption. Smokers who do not consume alcohol have a 2 to 4 times greater risk of developing oral cancer than people who do not drink or smoke, while smoking and drinking a lot together multiplies by 38 the possibility of developing cancer. But there is more: malignant lesions (those considered precancerous lesions) occur six times more frequently in smokers than in non-smokers.

Periodontal pathologies, an added problem

Apart from this serious health problem, there are other effects of tobacco in our mouth. Smokers, for example, have a higher prevalence and severity in periodontitis, deeper periodontal pockets and a more severe loss of tooth insertion. They usually have a gum with a paler tone and long-term smokers have teeth with loss of bone support, "disembodied" and with an aesthetic that ages the smile, as the gum papillae disappear between the teeth and dark spaces appear instead, a very difficult cosmetic solution by the dentist.


Thus, smokers have a 2.5 to 6 times greater risk of periodontal disease than non-smokers. Smoking has also been shown to have an adverse effect on wound healing after surgery, reducing the risk of dry socket (painful postoperative periodontal surgery or dental extraction).


In addition, tobacco masks the inflammation of the gums and they bleed less despite being inflamed. Many patients with gum problems notice an increase in bleeding during brushing after decreasing tobacco use.


And decay?

Lighting a cigarette also influences the appearance of these lesions, since among smokers a greater amount of tooth decay is observed in the roots of the teeth, since the smoking habit causes the loss of their support and exposes the root, area of ​​the tooth with a high caries risk. In turn, they show a decrease in salivary secretion, which leads to a lower neutralizing capacity of the plaque. They also tend to have a greater tendency to consume sugary drinks, eat between meals and eat less fruit, so maintaining optimal oral hygiene is crucial.

As stated by Dr. Elías Casals, president of the Spanish Society of Epidemiology and Oral Public Health (SESPO), "correct brushing is the best prevention of oral diseases".

Smokers have a greater number of aggressive gum bacteria and worse plaque control than nonsmokers. The levels of pathogenic bacteria in the dental plaque are higher in the most complex and hard-to-reach brushing areas, which requires the use of an effective toothbrush that eliminates these plaque clusters.


What are the smoker's palate and melanosis?

People who smoke a large number of cigarettes often develop a hard, pale or white palate, often combined with multiple red dots. This is due to circulatory ischemia (constriction of blood vessels with less blood flow) and may disappear after quitting smoking.


In addition, the high consumption of tobacco is sometimes also associated with melanin pigmentation (dark pigmentation), especially in the cheeks and in the gum attached. This is an asymptomatic and reversible change, although it usually takes more than a year to recover the normal color after giving up the habit.


Does it affect dental implants?

As pointed out by Oral B, the failure rate of dental implants is higher in smokers. Smoking is related to a greater loss of bone support of the implants, especially in the upper jaw, influencing the total loss of a dental implant. In addition, there is a greater risk of failure in the integration of the implant after being placed, which requires the removal of the implant, a few months of waiting and the placement of a new implant.


Undoubtedly, more reasons to encourage smokers to definitely put out the cigarette. Your health will thank you.

Dr. Armellini received her dental degree from the Central University of Venezuela. She received an MBA from the University of Michigan and embarked on a clinical fellowship in Implantology Prosthodontics at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.


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