29 May Tobacco Smoking Vs Oral Hygene
Here at Dental Brothers we want to encourage you to take whatever steps are necessary to stop smoking or using any form of tobacco. However, as dental providers, we will meet you where you are. We will not hassle you, but we are going do all that we can to support you in stopping the use of tobacco. Because we deeply care about your health, we feel that you ought to know some important facts about your oral hygiene that are unique to users of tobacco. You need to be aware of these issues so that you can be proactive in your oral health care.
Facts About Tobacco Use and Oral Hygiene
- All forms of tobacco use are dangerous. Cigarettes are dangerous because of the increased risk of lung cancer, but they also increase your risk of oral cancers. Some people choose “smokeless tobacco” thinking that it is better, but it still increases your risk of oral cancer. Cigars, pipes, cigarettes, and chewing tobacco all cause cancers of the mouth and gums.
- Tobacco will stain your teeth. You probably already see that your teeth are yellowed from using tobacco. While we can whiten your teeth for you, as long as you are using tobacco, you are fighting a losing battle to try to keep your teeth white.
- Tobacco will damage your gums and the tissue inside your mouth. The use of any type of tobacco product will cause your gums to recede and may cause gum disease. This disease is an infection that will cause your teeth to fall out and can damage the bone that holds your teeth in place.
- Tobacco will cause cancer. People who smoke are six times more likely than non-smokers to develop cancers of the lips, tongue, throat, and mouth. Unfortunately, 40 to 50 percent of those who do get cancer of the mouth die from it.
- Smokeless tobacco products can promote tooth decay. Many brands of smokeless tobacco include sugar for flavoring. Keeping sugar in your mouth all the time leads to an increased chance of cavities for users of smokeless tobacco.
- Dentists can’t fix everything. While your dentist can keep an eye on your oral health and try to keep your mouth and teeth as healthy as possible, he cannot completely reverse all of the effects of tobacco use. For instance, tobacco users will have less success with many dental procedures. Tobacco use reduces blood flow to the mouth, meaning that it takes longer to heal after having dental work done. Additionally, tobacco suppresses saliva flow causing drier mouth than non-smokers. This will significantly increase risk for cavities and other complications after dental work.
If You Just Can’t Quit…
Stopping the use of tobacco is easier said than done. According to the American Lung Association, six out of ten smokers were not able to quit on their first attempt. However, if you have tried unsuccessfully several times to quit, you should keep these facts in mind.
- Try cutting back. If your quitting attempts were unsuccessful, you can improve your dental health somewhat by cutting back how many times you use tobacco each day. One study indicated that smokers who cut back to less than half a pack of cigarettes a day only had three times the risk of developing gum disease as a non-smoker. When you consider that those who smoked a pack and a half had six times the risk of non-smokers, you can see that cutting back greatly improves one’s oral health.
- You must have excellent hygiene habits. As a user of tobacco, you have to be incredibly diligent about your oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing should be practiced several times a day.
- Use a water-pik type appliance daily. While most people can benefit from using a water flosser tool each day, those who use tobacco really need to use this tool to make sure that their mouths are thoroughly cleaned every night.
- Limit your alcohol intake. Some studies have indicated that those who drink alcohol and use tobacco are 15 times more likely to develop oral cancer. The chemicals in tobacco and those in alcohol work together to cause cancer to grow.
- Visit the dentist regularly. If you use tobacco, your dentist will want to keep an especially close eye on what’s happening in your mouth. He will be on the lookout for pre-cancerous lesions in your mouth. Oral cancer doesn’t kill people because it is hard to treat. It kills because it is often not diagnosed until it is in the later stages of the disease.
- Examine your mouth. Check your mouth regularly for odd growths or strangely colored patches. If you see anything unusual that doesn’t disappear on its own in two weeks, you should call the dentist and have him take a look at it.
Quitting Altogether is Safest
While taking the above precautions is good, they are still no substitute for quitting tobacco use altogether. There is no level of tobacco use that is “safe.” Each year over 8,000 people die from oral cancer, and 90 percent of those people are tobacco users.
However, it is never too late to stop smoking. Even people who have been diagnosed with oral cancer will benefit from quitting the use of tobacco products. Only 6 percent of those who stop using tobacco after developing oral cancer develop more cancerous spots. However, when oral cancer patients don’t stop smoking, 37 percent of them have cancer recurrences. Some studies have indicated that previous smokers who haven’t used tobacco products for over ten years have similar oral cancer risks to those who never used these products at all.
Those who have stopped smoking have reported the following benefits:
- Their teeth are whiter.
- Their mouth is no longer dry.
- Their breath is fresher.
- Their food is much tastier.
- They have more money in their pockets because they are not longer buying tobacco products.
- Their sense of smell is greatly improved.
And those are just the benefits that those patients realize. If you read medical literature, you will find that giving up tobacco products will help improve your blood pressure, lower your risk of stroke and heart attack, and greatly decrease your chance of developing many kinds of cancer.
If you want to give up tobacco, we here at Dental Brothers would be glad to help you and give you support services that you may need. Some insurance plans may offer counseling to help you quit, and we will be privileged to be the ones to get you started in a tobacco-free lifestyle. It is hard to quit smoking or using another form of tobacco. However, it is definitely worth it.