It’s no secret that smoking is bad for your health. Even those who do smoke or use other tobacco products often wish they could quit because they suffer devastating consequences from this unhealthy addiction.
Not only do cigarettes drain your bank account, and are linked to a long list of very serious health afflictions, tobacco usage is pretty terrible for your oral health.
Types of Tobacco
Tobacco usage as we know it today comes in a few forms:
- Smoking tobacco — cigarettes that are pre-rolled, or loose tobacco to be smoked in a pipe or rolled in papers
- Smokeless tobacco — chewing tobacco and dipping tobacco, wherein the user places the product between the gums and the cheeks to release nicotine
(And let’s not even get started on vaping!)
Harmful to your Health
Simply put, tobacco products contain a complex mix of chemicals that are harmful to the human body. Using them can negatively affect oral health in the following ways:
- Increased risk of oral cancers including mouth, gum, tongue and jaw
- Increased risk of developing gum disease
- Higher rates of tooth loss
- Tooth discolouration
- Interruption of the gum tissue cells from healthy functioning, which can lead to infections like periodontal disease,
- Can impair blood flow to the gums so that it is more difficult to heal
- The weakened immune system in general
Smoking and Braces
If you are undergoing orthodontic treatment like braces, they can be affected by tobacco usage, too. Weakened gums from smoking or chewing might not be able to support the teeth as well as they should, which can affect the long-term goal of the braces.
And since smoking stains the teeth, many people report little white squares on their teeth when the braces and brackets are removed. This kind of ruins the excitement of completing an orthodontic treatment and to fix it, a person will need to undergo whitening treatment.
What Happens When You Quit?
The good news is that by stopping the usage of tobacco products, the body’s ability to heal and reverse some of the damage is pretty astonishing. The sooner the better though.
There is, of course, a point where the damage is too far gone. Especially with oral health. A tooth won’t magically repair itself and gums won’t suddenly grow back after decades of use.
To repair damage from using tobacco products, a patient might need to undergo major reconstructive work, like gum graft surgery or tooth implants. If a disease like cancer has set in, it may require some very intensive and serious treatment to combat. Of course for some, it’s not that simple as never picking up a tobacco product again, the addiction is quite severe. There is help available, and it may take some steely determination. But it is so worth it to quit smoking or chewing. Your mouth, teeth, gums (and dentist!) will thank you.
Dr. Lesley Williams is a Certified Specialist in Orthodontics. She grew up in Victoria, BC with her parents and two sisters.
After being awarded her Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD) degree in 1989, Dr. Williams then spent six years as a dentist in general practice before deciding that she wanted to further her education by undertaking three extra years of highly specialized training in orthodontics. With her Masters in Science (Orthodontics) degree under her belt, she went on to sit the Orthodontic Specialty Fellowship exams through the Royal College of Dentists of Canada. To date, her status as an active leader in the orthodontic profession means that she holds the following qualifications and positions:
- Certified Specialist in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
- Fellow of the Royal College of Dentists of Canada
- Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics
- Examiner for the Royal College of Dentists of Canada and the American Board of Orthodontics.
- Former president of the Pacific Coast Society of Orthodontists (representing 2900 orthodontists from the 4 western Canadian provinces and 8 western American states).
- Active member of the Edward H. Angle Society of Orthodontists.