We all are well aware by now of the hazardous effects tobacco can have on one’s general health.
However, do we fully understand the precise effect it has on our oral health?
We have all seen the horrifying commercials, depicting people with false teeth, or severely damaged teeth and gums. But are these commercials just trying to scare us, or is there a basis for their claims?
The answer, incase you already guessed, is yes—these claims are valid and can be backed up by medical professionals.
“You can get yellow teeth [and] a yellow tongue,” says Thomas Kilgore, DMD, professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery and associate dean at the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine. “You see a lot of staining on the tongue.”
Smoking and all use of tobacco can potentially lead to more serious oral health conditions. This includes gum disease as well as oral cancer.
“The most serious issue is mouth cancer,” Dr. Kilgore says. “It’s hard to say what percentage of people who smoke will get mouth cancer, but the death rate of those who do get it is high — between 40 and 50 percent of all cases, and that hasn’t changed over the last few decades.”
According to the American Cancer Society, 90 percent of people with oral cancer (cancer which damages the lips, tongue, throat, and mouth) have used tobacco in some form.
Periodontal disease is also a risk.
“Smoking cigarettes doesn’t cause dental decay, but it does cause periodontal, or gum, disease,” Kilgore explains. “Bone loss is part of periodontal disease. It starts out as inflammation of the gums. In the natural and unfortunate progression, the bone supporting the roots of your teeth becomes inflamed,” causing the underlying bone to deteriorate, he adds.
“There are surgical and nonsurgical therapies to reverse or slow the progression of periodontal disease,” Kilgore says, however without the proper treatment, gum disease can eventually cause lead to tooth loss and jawbone damage.
To be quite frank, there is no tobacco use that can be recommended for oral health.
There is a misconception that there are different forms of tobacco that are “safer” than others. Despite this, Kilgore claims, “Tobacco in any form has risks. It’s hard to figure out which is worse.”
So to be as safe as possible, avoid tobacco use in any and all forms. Your oral as well as overall health is put in unnecessary jeopardy if you choose to partake.
Tobacco use “is a tremendously addictive habit, so in the meantime, regular dental visits can help with early detection” of gum disease and precancerous mouth sores, Kilgore says. He adds that the people at greatest risk of developing oral cancer are chronic smokers who abstain from frequent visits to a dentist. “By the time oral cancer is detected, it’s hard to treat,” he says.
Do yourself a favor, and just say no to tobacco, your teeth will thank you.
If you have any questions or would like to make an appointment with our dentists, Dr. Evelina Tolchinsky DDS or Dr. Inna Trogan DDS, then please call our office today! (718) 246-5677
Our dentists have served the residents of Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Dumbo, and all of our other surrounding New York communities for years.
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