As you may already know, smoking and other forms of tobacco use increase your risk of developing several types of cancers (lung cancer, throat cancer, pancreatic cancer, cervical cancer, liver cancer etc.), respiratory diseases such as emphysema, heart disease & stroke as well as adverse pregnancy outcomes.
Have you thought about how smoking affects the health of your mouth, teeth and gums?
People who smoke increase their risk of developing mouth cancer. Mouth cancer is the name given to the group of cancers that affect any part of the mouth including the insides of the cheeks, palate (roof of the mouth), gums, tongue, tonsils, throat, salivary glands, nose and lips. In addition, the risk is amplified when smoking is accompanied by high alcohol consumption.
Some common signs of mouth cancer include:
- White or red patches, uneven texture or breaks in the skin
- A lump anywhere in or around the mouth or throat
- Thickening or hardening of the cheek or tongue
- Ulcers that do not heal
- Unusual bleeding
- Pain when chewing or swallowing
- Loose teeth or dentures no longer fitting comfortably
- Persistent sore throat or hoarseness
- Persistent nosebleeds and a stuffy nose
- Unusual patches of skin on the lips
Our team will check for signs of mouth cancer at every check-up. We use a small mirror to examine the inside of your mouth and tongue and we are able to see parts of your mouth that you may not be able to easily see yourself. A member of our team will inform you if any signs of cancer are detected. Visit our page on mouth cancer for more information.
People who use tobacco products are at a greater risk of developing gum disease as smoking interferes with the normal healing and the function of gum tissue cells.
Gingivitis – In the early stage of gum disease, plaque builds up along the gum line and causes inflammation (swelling) of the gums surrounding the teeth. This is known as gingivitis. Gingivitis can be painless so you may not know you have it. However you may notice swelling and bleeding while brushing or flossing.
Periodontitis – If gingivitis is allowed to progress, the inflammation can lead to further damage to the bone and tissues around the teeth. Pockets may form between the teeth and gums where plaque can easily collect. Some of the common signs of periodontitis are: redness, soreness and swelling of the gums, bleeding, loosening of the teeth, receding gums or longer looking teeth or bad breath that won’t go away. Periodontitis can result in the loss of the teeth.
Visit on page on gum disease for further information about treatment and other risk factors.
Bad breath due to a combination of dry mouth, the scent of the tobacco itself, bacteria build up and tongue coating.
Stained teeth and tongue from the constant exposure to nicotine and tar even if you use whitening products.
Dulled sense of taste and smell making it difficult for you to enjoy and appreciate different foods.
Slow healing after tooth extraction or other surgeries sometimes causing pain related to dry socket and infections.
Low success rate of implant procedure due to bone loss and/or slow healing time.
Quitting smoking is the only way to reduce your risk of developing mouth cancer, gum disease, bad breath, tooth staining and other tobacco-related health problems. The good news is, no matter how long you have smoked, the sooner you quit, the greater the reduction in risk levels.
For most smokers, quitting smoking is a difficult process as it is a highly addictive habit. Nevertheless, it is never too late to quit smoking and each day without a cigarette is good news for your health, your family and your pocket. Staying focussed on your personal reasons for quitting can help improve your chances of success.
You may know roughly how many cigarettes you smoke a day – but do you actually know where, when and why you smoke each one?
Think about the moments throughout the day when you typically reach for a cigarette.
Are you a mother who smokes once the children have been put to bed as a way to give yourself some alone time? Do you smoke with colleagues during your breaks at work? Do you reach for a cigarette when you wake up as part of your morning routine? Make a note of the situation at the time when you typically smoke. Think about how you would feel if you didn’t smoke in each specific instance and then think about what you can do with that time instead of reaching for a cigarette.
We recommend first trying to cut-back on smoking.
Try to break your routine and slowly substitute or eliminate a few cigarettes a day. For example, if you smoke to relax at the end of the day, try to use that time to drink an herbal tea instead. If you smoke with colleagues at break times, stay indoors with a non-smoking colleague or ask someone to go out for a short walk with you instead. You may also want to keep healthy snacks such as raw vegetables, seeds, nuts or fruit on hand to snack on when you experience a craving.
Keep key motivators like your spouse, children or good friends close at hand.
Some people may also find it helpful to join a support group or track their progress using mobile apps available on smartphones.
If you are considering quitting smoking, feel free to speak to a member of our team who can advise on which strategy may be right for you based on your smoking history. For example, we have found that nicotine patches can be helpful for many patients. In addition, we refer some patients to Denise Brett who provides professional psychotherapy or hypnosis; which has shown to be a good option for those struggling to quit.