In 2005, nearly 21 percent of adults were smokers. Almost a decade and a half later, news reports exclaim that smoking in America is at an all-time low! That’s the goal – it’s an ongoing battle to lower smoking rates until they’re nonexistent because of the oral and overall health risks. We still have some work to do yet. In 2018, 17.1 percent of American adults were smokers. The oral health risks of smoking are severe. Cigarette smoking is still the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, accounting for nearly 480,000 deaths annually.
Smokers are more likely to develop heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer than people who don’t smoke. The oral health risks of smoking are shocking, as well, especially when we consider the risk of oral cancer. Get familiar with the facts and quit today.
*The CDC defines a smoker as a person who has smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their life and continue to “smoke every day or some days.”
Oral Health Risks of Smoking Include:
1. Teeth Stains & Bad Breath
Your teeth have enamel, and enamel has pores, just like a sponge does. They make it easy for stains to occur if you don’t take care of your smile. Cigarettes contain tar and nicotine and can easily stain your teeth in a short amount of time.
The chemicals in cigarettes can also cause distinctively bad breath. Instead of spending extra money on bags of mints, gum, and harsh mouthwashes that will temporarily disguise the smell, you should consider giving up smoking for good. Don’t cover up the problem. Many resources are available to help you leave smoking behind.
2. Distortion of Taste
Smoking cigarettes can change how things taste. One study from BioMed Central found that chronic exposure to cigarette smoke significantly affects taste buds. Their research showed that the higher the nicotine dependence, the lower the individual’s sensitivity to taste. Researchers concluded that quitting smoking can lead to a rapid recovery of taste.
Patients monitored in the study showed an increase in taste sensitivity in as little as two weeks following smoking cessation! Some may not have noticed over the years how cigarettes can change your sense of taste. But, once you kick the habit, we bet you’ll notice a healthier mouth and wider range of flavors on your palate!
3. Gum Disease
Periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, is when the gums supporting your teeth become infected from plaque build-up. Smoking cigarettes weakens your body’s immune system, making it harder to fight infection in the gums. Did you know that people who smoke are twice as likely to get gum disease? Treating a smoker for gum disease may not work as well because they continue to put themselves at risk when they consume nicotine. The more cigarettes you smoke and the longer you smoke, the higher the risk.
4. Oral & Oropharyngeal Cancer
Cancer develops when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Smoking irritates the cells of the mouth and throat, encouraging cell dysfunction. Oral cancer is divided into two categories. The first is cancer of the oral cavity and can affect:
- inside of lips
- front of the tongue,
- floor and roof of the mouth
The second type is oropharynx cancer (“oro” meaning “mouth and “pharynx” meaning the part of the throat behind the nasal cavity). It can affect:
- middle of the throat,
- base of the tongue
Smokers and excessive drinkers have the highest risk for developing oral cancers. Since many dentists check your mouth for oral cancer symptoms, regular dental visits will help you catch any signs early on. The best way to avoid oral cancer is to stop smoking and visit the dentist for any existing problems.
Ready to Quit Smoking?
An estimated 53,000 people will get oral cancer in 2019, and nearly 11,000 will die because of it. If you’re ready to quit, you don’t have to start the journey alone. There are local resources that can help you. Take the first step in taking back your oral and overall health today.