There’s no denying that smoking is a bad habit. And, the negative effects of smoking on overall health are well known. From cancer to coronary heart disease, smoking claims round 500,000 lives annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re a smoker, you might think brushing and flossing regularly minimizes this dangerous and addictive habit’s impact on your oral health. It’s important to note, however, that smoking causes both overt and subtle oral health issues that should be mitigated to prevent irreparable damage.
Your Smile Suffers
If smoking is part of your daily routine, you might find it difficult to flash a smile. And, dental hygienists usually don’t have to ask “are you a smoker?” when they see your mouth full of yellow, discolored teeth. On closer inspection, a smoker’s teeth usually show increased and hard-to-remove tartar and plaque build-up, which hasten tooth decay. Simply put, daily oral hygiene simply isn’t enough to minimize these issues caused by filling your mouth with smoke once or several times a day.
Behind the Scenes
You might have your teeth cleaned regularly by a dentist. You might even use high-quality toothpaste, brushes and floss, but cigarette smoke works quietly behind the scenes to damage your teeth and mouth. Your salivary glands may come inflamed, and you may suffer bone loss in your jaw, according to WebMD. Smoking also increases your chances of developing gingivitis, leukoplakia—white spots inside the mouth—and oral cancer.
On the Surgery Front
If you require oral surgery, such as wisdom teeth removal or a root canal, expect longer-than-normal recovery periods thanks to smoking. Such surgeries are delicate to begin with, and the longer it takes for your mouth to heal, the more visits you make to the dentist. In addition to physical pain and possible loss of appetite, dealing with a protracted oral surgery recovery costs more money out of pocket, especially if you have limited dental insurance coverage.
A Way Forward
Smoking cessation isn’t easy, but it’s the single best way to keep a bright smile and good oral health. If you can’t quit cold turkey—many smokers can’t—consider options such as nicotine replacement therapy and counseling to get on the right track. Your dentist or oral surgeon can provide you with more information about maintaining your oral health after smoking in the near and long term.