Smoke Signals -- There Is No Safe Form of Tobacco
The effects of smoking . . . On the mouth
May 22, 2009
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By: Ken Nelson, DDS, Dentistry
Using tobacco can harm your mouth, including your teeth and
gums, in a number of ways. There is no safe form of tobacco - using it produces many problems and risk factors, from tooth
discoloration and gum disease to throat, lung, and oral cancer,
and, ultimately, even death. It's important to understand what
happens to your mouth when you use any form of tobacco, and
to discuss those effects - and how to quit - with your dentist
What happens to my mouth when I smoke?
Smoking reduces blood flow and the supply of vital nutrients to
your gums, including vitamin C. Without the proper nutrients,
you can develop gum disease, bone loss, and even tooth loss.
This is because smoking triggers the accumulation of bacteria in plaque. Smoking also reduces the amount of saliva that
flows through your mouth. Saliva is important for cleaning
your mouth and preventing tooth decay. In addition, when you
smoke, the temperature in your mouth increases and the heat
kills important cells in your mouth.
You also can see the effects of tobacco use. Nicotine and tar,
the major ingredients of cigarettes, discolor your teeth - yellow
and brown stains will appear and the sticky tar deposits will
adhere to crevices. The roof of your mouth will become
inflamed and turn red. You also will lose a lot of your sense
of taste, and the smell of your breath may become offensive.
Is smokeless tobacco safe?
No! Just because you don't smoke the tobacco, it doesn't mean
that there aren't harmful effects. Smokeless tobacco - which
includes snuff, dip, or chewing tobacco - eats away at your
gums, exponentially increasing the chances for gum disease.
You also are four to six times more likely to develop oral cancer
from chewing tobacco. In fact, the area of your mouth where
you place the tobacco is 50 times more likely to be the site of
an oral cancer.
What about cigars?
Cigars contain the same toxic and carcinogenic compounds
that cigarettes do, and even though you might not inhale cigar
smoke, cigars are not a safe alternative. Regular cigar smoking
increases the risk for oral cancers, lung cancer, and larynx and
What are the signs of oral cancer?
Oral cancer can develop at any time. It's important to know
what to look for and to tell your dentist and physician right
away if you have any concerns. If you experience any sign of
irritation, like tenderness, burning, or a sore that will not heal,
tell your dentist or physician. Also, tell your dentist or physician
if you have pain, tenderness, or numbness anywhere in your
mouth or lips. The development of a lump or a wrinkled or
bumpy patch inside your mouth also can be a sign of oral
cancer. In addition, if the tissues in your mouth change color to
gray, red, or white, make an appointment to see your dentist
What can I do to stop the effects?
The most obvious way to stop the effects of smoking and
tobacco use on your mouth - and body - is by quitting. Although
it can be extremely difficult to quit because the toxins in tobacco
products are addictive, there are ways to stop using tobacco. Talk
with your dentist and physician about treatment plans.
Once you have made the steps toward quitting, it is
important to improve your dental hygiene with regular brushing
and flossing. It is advised for smokers to get a professional
cleaning (scaling and polishing) for the removal of stains. But
without quitting, the cleaning and stain removal will have only
a temporary effect.
Or Contact Dr. Ken Nelson at:
800 S. Euclid Ave, Bay City, MI 48706
Ask The Experts Article 3895
Ken Nelson, DDS, Dentistry
Dr. Nelson has served patients at West Bay Dental since 1985. Dr. Nelson provides most dental services with an emphasis on cosmetics, full mouth reconstruction, oral surgery and implants.
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