Today, November 15th, is The Great American Smokeout – a day to commit to quitting smoking and living a healthier version of you, not only today, but year round. You probably know how bad smoking is and how damaging it is to your health. But do you know how bad it is for your dental health as well? More than one-third of smokers also suffer from at least three dental health issues. Let’s take some time today to talk about the effects that smoking has on your dental health and some ways to take the first steps in quitting.
I know that this one is kind of obvious, but it’s at the forefront of dental issues when you’re a smoker. Let me preface this by saying that I used to be a pack a day smoker, for years. I thought I was pretty sneaky about it too. I would “sneak out” on my break at work and have a cigarette, pop a breath mint after, and go back into work thinking that no one would ever know that I just smoked because the mint would take care of the smell. What I didn’t know was that the particles of a cigarette last in the mouth and the throat way longer than the breath mint did. Smoking actually decreases saliva which leads to dry mouth. Dry mouth produces the bacteria that causes bad breath.
Did you know that smokers are four times more likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers? I was going through some personal health issues a few years back and was having difficulty healing. One of the nurses that I came into contact with had asked me if I smoked. I said yes and she explained that smoking will slow down the healing process in all illnesses and diseases because the nicotine prevents oxygen from flowing to our cells. The same thought process is true when it comes to gum disease too. The amount of bacteria increases because the nicotine reduces the amount of oxygen that flows to the mouth. Over time, a buildup of the bacteria and plaque results in gum disease.
INCREASED RISK OF ORAL CANCER
Tobacco use of any kind – smoking cigarettes, pipes, or cigars, as well as chewing tobacco all contribute to your risk for developing oral cancer. Tobacco contains many carcinogens which harm the cells in your mouth. In turn, those cells turn “bad” and can likely turn into oral cancer. There are many factors that contribute to your risks of cancer that you can’t control – age, gender, genetics. Why play around with the major risk factor that you do have control over?
Now for the hard part – quitting. Believe me, I get it. I’ve been there. This month I celebrate my 4 years of being smoke-free and I couldn’t feel healthier. But I get it, it’s not easy. In fact, it’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, hands down. But the benefits I get now that I’m a nonsmoker? They’re worth it all. Take baby steps. You didn’t become a full-fledged smoker overnight so don’t expect to quit overnight either. Do you smoke a pack a day? Start cutting down – cut out 5 cigarettes today, in three days cut back another 5, and so on. There are tools that can help you quit too – medication, gum, patches, etc. The key here is coming up with a plan and committing to it. Commit to reclaiming your health and your life.
There are many resources to help you along in your journey to live a smoke-free, healthy life. Start today with the help of the Great American Smokeout (https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/great-american-smokeout.html). Also, you can take the next step in improving your dental health by calling our office (Charmoy Dental: 973-584-0008) to make an appointment for your next cleaning and oral cancer screening. If you want healthy teeth and gums that will last you a lifetime, start today – there’s no time like the present!