The link between smoking and oral health

Did you know that smoking is also bad for your teeth and gums?

Despite Governmental and health campaigners attempts to stop people from smoking, a large number of people still do so. Whilst the various campaigns have been successful overall, it seems that the message is still not working for everyone. This seems to apply especially to younger women which is especially concerning as they are in a category that may well pass the habit on to their children.

As dentists though, at our Sutton Coldfield practice, we see another side to the effects of smoking; those that have an impact on a patient’s oral health. So, we have decided to add our advice to that of others and hope that the following information will help to discourage our patients from smoking.

Oral Cancers

Whilst most people, when smoking is mentioned, think of lung cancers, it can also have a similar effect on the mouth; in fact oral cancers are not uncommon amongst long term heavy smokers. As dentists, we are trained to look for potential signs of mouth cancer. These can include ulcers which do not heal after a few weeks, discoloured patches on the tongue, along with swellings in the mouth amongst other symptoms. Naturally, as we are not medically trained in the field, we can’t say for sure that what we see is a mouth cancer but if we see something that we are concerned about, we will recommend that you visit your doctor for a check up. Provided that a patient keeps regular check up appointments with us, hopefully, we will be able to spot any signs of oral cancers early on, making them easier to treat.

Dental Implants and Smoking

Smoking also has a negative effect on a number of dental procedures, the most obvious one of these being dental implants. Although a highly successful procedure, it is also invasive and relies for its effectiveness on good healing. This occurs by blood flowing towards the ‘wounded’ area in order to heal it. This flow however, can be severely restricted in smokers as the nicotine in cigarettes and cigars narrows the tiny blood vessels in our gums, in effect cutting off much of the blood flow. This means that the healing time needed is increased and can endanger the dental implant. Similarly, smoking is a known cause of dry mouth. By producing insufficient saliva, the bad bacteria in our mouth is not washed away effectively and can easily lead to gum disease which attacks the soft tissue and the bone that supports the dental implant. This can seriously put the newly placed dental implant at risk and may even cause it to fail.

Because of these problems caused by smoking, you will be requested to stop for a period of at least three months either side of a dental implant being placed. Stopping altogether however, would be much more beneficial and we encourage all of our patients to do so.