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Do you smoke? Learn how it affects your oral health

Are you a smoker? If so you may already be aware of how smoking affects your general health, but have you thought about how it impacts your oral health? In fact smoking can have a dramatic effect on dental health, greatly increasing your risk of developing dental problems and oral cancer.

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Oral cancer kills 27.2% of Canadians who are diagnosed with the disease*

Smoking can cause bad breath, will stain your teeth and increases the build-up of plaque and tartar on your teeth. You have a higher risk of developing gum disease and this condition tends to progress more quickly in smokers compared to non-smokers. Smokers are more likely to experience an altered sense of taste and smell and they are at increased risk of developing oral cancers.

Gum Disease and Smoking

Smoking has been found to be a significant risk factor for periodontal disease (advanced gum disease). This is because smoking constricts the blood vessels in the gums, making them less able to receive the nutrients and oxygen required stay healthy and to fight infection. In addition, smokers experience a greater build-up of plaque on their teeth compared to non-smokers. Plaque quickly hardens into tartar, a substance which will inflame and infect the gums.

One major study found that cigarette smoking was a major factor for more than half of the cases of periodontal disease in adults and smokers are around four times more likely to have periodontitis compared to those who have never smoked. Periodontal disease can destroy the gum tissues, the ligaments holding teeth in place and the bone around the teeth, eventually leading to tooth loss. Periodontal disease has also been linked to numerous serious health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.

Oral Cancer and Smoking

Smoking can increase the risk of oral cancer, a disease which is often diagnosed late in the day when treatment is more invasive and less successful. Oral cancer is the 13th most common cancer in Canada and rates are increasing. According to Health Canada, the risk of developing some form of oral cancer is between 5 and 10 times greater amongst smokers compared to those who have never smoked. The disease kills 27.2% of Canadians who are diagnosed.

Smoking and Dry Mouth

Smoking can decrease the flow of saliva, increasing the likelihood of dry mouth (xerostomia), a condition where insufficient saliva is produced to keep the mouth clean and comfortable. Saliva plays a major role in oral health as it helps to wash away excess bacteria and food particles and keeps the mouth at a more neutral pH. Anyone who doesn’t produce enough saliva is more at risk of developing gum disease and tooth decay and of course this condition can be uncomfortable.

Reducing the Effects of Smoking

We hope that if you do smoke you will consider quitting, but we realize this can be very difficult. In the meantime, Tsawwassen Place Dental can treat any dental problems you may have as a result of smoking and regular check-ups and professional hygiene appointments will help keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible. Dr. Larry Leslie will keep an eye on your oral health and can carry out regular checks for any early signs of oral cancer using a handheld scope that makes it easier to detect any abnormalities to the oral tissues.

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* Source: Canadian Cancer Society

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