The effects that smoking has on your general health have long been known. However, smoking can also cause tooth staining and gum disease as well as tooth loss and oral cancer.

Most people are aware that smoking can cause cancer of the lungs and throat but it is also the leading cause of oral cancer, accounting for 3% of all cancers diagnosed in Australia.

Mouth cancers

Mouth cancers can be very difficult to diagnose in the early stages without radiographs and regular check-up appointments with your dental professional. This can lead to oral cancer going unnoticed for some time. Oral cancer can develop in all areas of the mouth including the tongue, lips, salivary glands and throat as well as other areas in the neck and head.

If you are a smoker, we advise regularly attending your 6 monthly check-up appointments. At each appointment our dentists and hygienists carry out an oral cancer screen, looking for any suspicious lesions, referring to specialists for assessment where necessary. It is recommended you become familiar with your own tongue, lips and inside of your cheeks so you can identify any changes that may indicate oral cancer.

Other side effects

In addition to tooth discoloration and bad breath, smoking causes irritation of the gums and significantly increases your susceptibility to periodontal disease (a degenerative condition of the gum and supportive bone). This is because smoking reduces oxygen levels in the blood affecting the body’s ability to heal and ward off infection. It also contributes to problems relating to tooth decay.

If you have missing teeth, smoking can affect your suitability for restorative treatment such as dental implants. Smoking (and periodontal disease) can cause a loss of jawbone volume making the jaw unable to support the implant and absorb the extreme biting and chewing forces placed on teeth while eating.
It is useful to know that using tobacco in any form (cigarettes, pipes and smokeless or spit tobacco) increases your risk of gum disease.

In summary, many concerning oral health conditions can result from smoking including:

• Increase in plaque and tartar build-up
• Bad breath
• Gingivitis and periodontal disease that may lead to tooth loss
• An increased risk of tooth decay
• High probability of being unsuitable for restorative treatment such as dental implants
• Leukoplakia, a white, scaly patch of skin inside your mouth or on your lips
• Cancerous and pre-cancerous lesions in your mouth that can be difficult to detect without regular radiographs and examinations
• Swelling or lumps in your mouth, neck, lips or on your tongue
• Numbness or pain in your mouth or throat without any obvious causes
• Difficulty chewing and swallowing food

Quitting smoking will improve your long-term oral and general health, as well as significantly reduce your risk of developing oral cancer. If you need further details on this topic, seek quality dental treatment and care at North Sydney Dental Professionals.

Further reading on general oral health here: 

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