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Smoking and Your Oral Health

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As if the risk of stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer weren't enough, smokers also need to be aware of the risks smoking can pose to their oral health.

As if the risk of stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer weren't enough, smokers also need to be aware of the risks smoking can pose to their oral health.

Tobacco products, including chewing and pipe tobacco, interfere with the normal function of gum cells, impairing blood flow to the gums and making them more prone to infections and slower to heal from wounds. In fact, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), smoking may be the cause of nearly 75% of periodontal (gum) disease. Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss, but it doesn't just affect the teeth: gum disease has also been scientifically linked to heart disease.

Gum disease is just the beginning of the oral health risks smokers face. People who smoke are also at risk for the following oral health issues:

  • Oral cancer
  • Stained and discolored teeth
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Diminished sense of taste and smell
  • Delayed healing after oral surgery or a tooth extraction
  • Reduced dental care options:  smokers are not good dental implant candidates
  • Inflammation of the salivary gland openings
  • Bone loss within the jaw
  • Increased buildup of tartar and plaque, which leads to an increased risk of cavities
The risks are not just for people who smoke cigarettes. Smokers of pipe tobacco and cigars, as well as people who use chewing tobacco, are also at risk for these oral health issues. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association shows that cigar smokers experience jaw bone loss and tooth loss at rates nearly equal to those of smokers. Chewing tobacco can cause gum tissue to recede from the teeth, which exposes tooth roots and creates an increased risk of decay, as well as heightened sensitivity to heat and cold.

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