Despite the numerous health risks associated with smoking, an estimated 43.8 million Americans still smoke. While many are aware of the health risks associated with smoking such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and emphysema, few stop to consider how smoking affects dental health.
The use of tobacco products can reduce the amount of blood that is delivered to the gum tissue of the gums. This can cause damage to the tissues in the gum line, resulting in the gums becoming inflamed. Smokers are six times more likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers.
Saliva helps to neutralize the mouth's pH, allowing for the damage caused by plaque to be corrected. Smoking causes this process to be less effective, causing smokers to be much more susceptible to plaque and tooth decay. In addition to causing damage to the teeth and gums, smoking can damage the bones inside the mouth. This coupled with gum damage can cause a smoker's teeth to fall out.
Smoking not only damages the teeth and gums, it also makes recovering from any type of dental procedure much more difficult. It is also harder to treat smokers for their dental problems.
Patients who smoke after an extraction can dislodge these protective blood clots, exposing the tissue, bone, and nerve endings, resulting in a condition known as 'dry socket'. Not only can dry socket be extremely painful, but the risk of infection is extremely high.
Because smokers have a much more difficult time healing after dental procedures, dentists often discourage smokers from procedures such as dental implants due to the continued damage that smoking will do to gums, teeth, and bones even after the implants are placed.
Although smokers won't be able to ever completely undo the damage that has been done to their teeth, they can improve their dental health significantly once they stop smoking. In addition, they can receive dental treatment, which can help repair some of the damage to their teeth and ensure their teeth last them for years to come.