What Smoking Does to Your Oral Health, PART 4

The Effects of Smoking on Your Oral Health, PART 4

This four-part article series explores the connection between tobacco-use and the health, aesthetics and longevity of the hard and soft tissues in the mouth.

It has been the goal of this four-part article series to provide more information on the relationship between tobacco-use and your oral health. We began in part one and two by discussing the various effects of this habit upon your overall oral health and hygiene. We then, in part three, began looking at the difference between the various forms of tobacco-use (smoking and chewing), ending up with a discussion of the health benefits afforded by kicking the habit. In this article, the final installment of our four-part series, we shall provide some advice on how patients can approach quitting and, in the meantime, minimize the effects of tobacco-use on the health of their teeth and gums.

How Can I Quit Tobacco?

There are really two different facets to an addiction to tobacco-use. First of all, there is the brain’s physical addiction to nicotine and this can quite readily be addressed through the use of medications designed to calm the cravings. If you can’t see yourself kicking the habit without the assistance of medication, it is best to schedule an appointment with your doctor who can either recommend over-the-counter nicotine patches or gum, or a prescription medication such as Zyban.

The other facet of tobacco addiction, is the psychological one. This represents the real hurdle. With sufficient will-power, one can power through the few days of shakiness and moodiness associated with quitting nicotine. But the psychological addiction is one that remains for months and even years. Smokers and tobacco-users are united through their common addiction, and that sense of community can make it difficult to just walk away. Smoking can also be a coping mechanism for many of life’s stresses, leaving those who quit feeling quite unguarded and vulnerable.

Some people decide to quit and do so without any physical or psychological assistance; others find support groups, cessation classes or self-help books to be pivotal in their transition. There are even herbal medications and alternative methods, such as acupuncture and hypnosis! You may not initially find the kind of assistance you need, but keep trying and eventually you’ll find the therapy you need to rid your life of an addiction to tobacco.

Minimizing the Effects of Smoking on Your Oral Health and Hygiene

Obviously, the best way would be to kick the habit altogether. However, sometimes you need to start small and work your way up. If you are a smoker and want to minimize the effects of your habit on the health and longevity of your smile, then the following tips are essential to follow:

  • Get in the habit of chewing sugar-free gum (preferably with xylitol): this not only increases saliva production, which protects your teeth and gums against bacteria, but it also helps to mask the smell of smoking.
  • Try to cut down on the amount of tobacco you use on a daily basis. Second to quitting, it’s the best course of action you can take.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep your mouth hydrated and avoid a sugar-rich diet.
  • Smoking increases bacterial activity in the mouth, so you need to take extra care to be as hygienic as possible. Maintain a rigorous home oral hygiene routine and make sure you go for those bi-annual appointments.
  • Incorporate an anti-bacterial mouthwash into your oral healthcare routine and use it after smoking.

A Final Note

Tobacco-use has no redeeming qualities. It is a habit that degrades both your general and oral health and the longer you continue to indulge your addiction, the worse your risk of developing serious and potentially fatal diseases. Quit today, and you’ll ensure that you keep more than just your smile from the brink of destruction.