Smoking and Dental Care
If you are a smoker, your dental care needs are considerably more demanding than those of a non-smoker. In fact, cigarette smoking is a leading cause of tooth loss. Smoking also increases your risk for periodontal disease (gum disease), loss of bone structure, inflammation of the salivary gland, leukoplakia (precancerous condition) and development of lung, throat or oral cancer.
In addition to the critical risks mentioned above, other factors for smokers to consider include:
- A consistent build up of plaque and tartar
- Stained teeth
- Bad breath
- The loss of taste and smell
Furthermore, smoking is associated with a slower healing process following dental work, and a lower rate of success for procedures such as dental implants. In fact, smokers may not be implant candidates at all.
On a grander scale, if the current trend of smokers in the U.S. continues, smoking will kill one in six Americans by 2030, according to the World Health Organization.
Oral Health Tips for Smokers
- Seek out resources for assistance: www.cancer.org, www.hazelton.org, www.smokefree.gov.
- Schedule an exam with your physician to identify the right smoking cessation program. Inquire about a counseling service, nicotine patch or gum, nasal inhalers and sprays or non-nicotine prescription medications.
- Schedule a professional dental cleaning and oral health checkup. Inform your dentist that you are a smoker and ask to be screened for periodontal disease and other smoking-related conditions.
- Be certain to maintain a proper dental hygiene home program. Smokers have special dental hygiene needs. For example, smokers usually require professional cleaning more often than non-smokers. Treat yourself to a new tongue cleaner, dental floss and mouthwash.
- Initiate a stress reduction program such as an exercise regimen, Pilates or a yoga class.
Smokers' Challenges & Solutions
The challenge in quitting smoking lies in both the physical and emotional dependency caused by the nicotine in cigarettes. Nicotine is a drug equally addictive to other narcotics. The physical withdrawal from cigarettes may include headaches, nausea, cold sweats, and tremors. The emotional symptoms may include depression, irritability, nervousness, fatigue, and a lack of concentration.
Since withdrawal from smoking can be one of the most difficult challenges to overcome, the healthcare community has developed a wealth of solutions to assist you. There are state-sponsored "quit smoking" hotlines, prescription medications, and over-the-counter drugs designed to help you through the withdrawal period.
There are behavioral modification programs that can be accessed through state sponsored "quit smoking" hotlines. You may have access to one-on-one therapy offered by private psychologists, therapists, counselors or in some cases, through prescription medication companies. In the end, the advantages of quitting are far greater than the risks associated with smoking.