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The truth about how smoking can affect your oral health 14-11-2017

Media coverage over the years has left us all clear that smoking is bad for you. The government and NHS have been consistently working towards reducing the number of UK smokers for decades. There are a variety of ‘help-to-quit’ schemes, and rules around packaging and selling tobacco that aim to make consumers more aware of the risks. The introduction of the ban on smoking in premises such as pubs and restaurants also marked a change in the habits of many seasoned smokers. But whilst you might be aware of some of the potential risks to your general health, are you clear about how smoking can affect your oral health as well? In today’s article, we’d like to give an overview of some of the possible consequences and steps that you can take.

How might smoking affect oral health?

A range of oral health problems can be triggered by smoking. These range in severity but can include:

  • staining to your teeth
  • gum disease
  • the loss of teeth
  • diseases such as mouth cancer

Nicotine and tar in tobacco are the culprits when it comes to stains to your teeth. Over a very short period of time your teeth can become yellow – and then almost brown after many years of smoking. Gum disease can be triggered as smokers are more likely to produce bacterial plaque. The more bacterial plaque present, the higher your risk of developing gum disease. In smokers, the gums don’t heal as quickly as in non-smokers, due to a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream. This further exacerbates gum disease.

Can I reduce the impact of my smoking by using special dental products?

You’ll find a range of special toothpastes on the market for people who smoke. Some of these seek to improve the appearance of teeth by reducing or removing staining, and claim to have a whitening effect on your teeth. However, caution must be applied: some of these toothpastes can be a little more abrasive than regular products. Your dental team will be able to advise on products to use, and how often to use them. Mouthwashes are also used by some smokers to reduce problems such as bad breath.

How should I involve my dentist?

Regular trips to your dentist are key: ensure you keep up with your appointments for check-ups and full mouth examinations. Your dentist will be able to check the health of your teeth, gums and whole mouth, and will check your teeth, tongue and throat for any signs or symptoms that may need further investigation. It may also be the case that you need to visit your dental hygienist more regularly, to help manage staining to your teeth.

Smoking can have unpleasant and significant effects on your oral health. Being aware of the risks is vital in minimising and avoiding these. Speak to your dentist today, and find out more about how they can support you with maintaining your oral health. For more information, please also visit the Oral Health Foundation website.

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