The problem with smokers teeth…
Smoking. We all know it’s no good for us, but the struggle to quit is real. Aside from the well-reported, life-threatening consequences associated with these stinky sticks, there are also massively damaging effects on our teeth and overall oral health. There are a variety of dental problems associated with the mouth of a smoker, some of which are irreversible. From a dentists perspective, there are some very common tell-tale signs of a smokers teeth, that are very obvious to spot on initial consultation. Today we will look at the five surprising ways that smoking can affect your oral health. Like you didn’t have enough reason to quit already?!
What do smokers teeth look like?
A quick Google search will bring up a glut of images demonstrating a stereotypical smokers teeth. It is not a pretty sight. In fact, many of them are downright disturbing. The effects of smoking on your teeth are more numerous than you may think, not to mention the havoc that smoking wreaks on your general health. Any type of tobacco will cause serious damage to your mouth and if you’re thinking of giving up, now is definitely the time. You’ve stumbled across this page for a reason, and we are here to bring you the right information while also helping you to understand how we, as dentists, can help.
How does smoking affect your teeth and gums?
- Tooth Discolouration
Is a pack of cigarettes each day your vice? Half a packet? Even smoking a couple of cigarettes per day will lead to staining and discolouration, just at a slightly slower pace. Imagine your teeth are like a cherished piece of porcelain (this is the enamel of your teeth). The porcelain has very fine cracks in it and as we use our teeth over the years, the miniature cracks absorb almost everything we eat and drink.
For smokers, with each pull on a cigarette, nicotine, tar, and other substances that contribute to making these tobacco sticks so addictive, seep into the cracks and contribute to classic yellowing signs of a smokers teeth. Because the vapour is so fine, it can do this all too easily. Unfortunately, even the most diligent brushing and cleaning practices cannot reverse this heavy staining.
Ok, so your teeth are yellowing. So what, you might think. Well, the process of discolouration makes us visually age. The brightness and vitality that we may have once had in our youth is now giving way to a more tired, dull, stale appearance. In a society that is so keen to defy the effects of ageing, ditching the fags would be the most effective anti-ageing practice of all. Saving you money and your health!
- Tooth Decay & Loss
Smokers often overlook the damage they are doing with each drag of a cigarette and rather enjoy the short-term pleasure that their tobacco fix provides. They don’t consider the slow, gradual decay of the teeth.
When smoking, the supply of oxygen available to the gums is restricted resulting in the nerves not receiving adequate healthy blood supply to remain healthy. Sizable spaces can appear between the teeth and around the gum line. Not only are these black triangles unsightly they can often lead to infections with food becoming trapped between the teeth. This will result in the cavities growing larger and the tooth structure weakening. In the worst cases, the tooth will eventually either fall out or need to be removed.
If you are reaching the point of tooth loss and tooth decay, this will lead to further signs of ageing and most certainly more costly dental procedures. For the price of just 1 month of cigarettes, you could be working towards having a fabulous set of teeth and ensuring your face is radiating with youth.
- Periodontal Disease
Also known as gum disease, this is a bacterial infection of the mouth that, over time, causes damage to the gums and in turn, to the teeth. The first signs are bleeding when flossing and sometimes even bleeding while brushing. As periodontal disease progresses, the gums begin to look as though they are receding – another classic sign of smokers teeth.
You may have seen the shocking advert of a woman’s eye-bleeding and being told that we wouldn’t let that go unseen by a doctor, but that many of us will have bleeding gums and not do anything about it seems crazy! This is a poignant advert and is yet another reminder that if you are experiencing bleeding when brushing or flossing, it’s time to see your dentist. It is possible to reverse periodontal disease if caught early, so if you’re a smoker and are experiencing this, please make an appointment to see us soon!
- Bone Damage
If gum disease is not checked and treated, the infection will spread. Spreading deeper into the gum tissues, and to the underlying bone structures are the next steps in the progression of this disease. If not treated, the bone will gradually break down and, sometimes in more advanced cases, surgery becomes necessary. That can have devastating effects on the structure of your jawline and overall facial features. Bone loss causes a sinking, drawn look and requires far greater intervention and reconstruction. Please don’t allow the situation to reach this stage.
- Mouth Cancer
You cannot ignore the severity of the big C. The NHS reports that ‘around 8,300 people are diagnosed with mouth cancer each year in the UK, which is about 1 in every 50 cancers diagnosed.’ The leading causes of mouth cancer are attributed to smoking and drinking alcohol.
Oral Cancer can affect any and every part of the mouth, including lips, gums, cheeks, teeth and tongue. Since we depend on our mouths to eat, drink and communicate this is a seriously challenging condition, which really can only be treated with surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. This is not something to be taken lightly, but the risk can be massively reduced by kicking the habit.
How can your dentist help?
Depending on the severity of your smokers teeth and how smoking has affected your oral health, your dentist can help in a number of ways. For example, where broken teeth are a problem, they will need to be repaired. Whitening is an obvious solution, but really only when you have already quit smoking, as otherwise, they will simply start to stain all over again.
When it comes to tooth loss, tooth extraction may need to be carried out. Implants and crowns may be a possibility, but where bone damage has occurred, this will require restorative surgery and/or bone grafts using either synthetic bone or your own bone and grafting the bone around the root of the tooth. This will help to prevent any further tooth loss. Other treatments are available and can be discussed during your consultation.
It is no secret that smoking has some horrendous effects on our health, but you may have underestimated the traumas it causes for your teeth and appearance. If you care about your image, want to maintain your youthful looks and feel and look great, it’s time to address those smokers teeth.
If you have already managed to quit, congratulations!! Let’s see how we can get your teeth back to looking their best so you can smile without shame!