I have a friend who struggled for years to quit smoking. He tried every kind of patch, gum, and hypnosis available to try to kick the habit. He eventually did, but I remember him telling me that the lectures and chastising he received from (mostly) well-meaning friends, family and strangers had very little impact on his decision to quit.
Cigarettes are manufactured to be addictive. In a 2006 ruling from a lawsuit filed by the federal government, it was found that cigarette makers deliberately misled the public about the dangers of smoking. (https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/assets/content/what_we_do/industry_watch/doj/FinalOpinion.pdf)
The ruling cited that the tobacco companies intentionally designed their products to be addictive, even while knowing their use led to harmful, and even deadly, effects.
For most smokers, they’re aware of the health risks associated with smoking. However, many are unaware of the risks that smoking poses to their oral health. Yes, gum disease and tooth loss are more prevalent in people who smoke.
The Centers For Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) warns that:
• Smokers have double the risk for gum disease compared to nonsmokers.
• The more cigarettes an individual smokes, the higher their risk for developing gum disease.
• The longer you smoke, the greater your risk for gum disease.
The CDC also warns that smoking can make treatment for gum disease less effective. (https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/periodontal-gum-disease.html)
With these challenges in mind, we want to help smokers be aware of their unique needs while providing an environment that supports their ability to prevent the development of periodontal (gum) disease and subsequent tooth loss.
In our office, we see each individual as, well… just that – an individual. Every mouth is different. And, the lifestyle and habits of each patient is different as well. Some of our patients eat too much sugar, which is a challenge in the prevention of cavities and gum disease. Others are infrequent brushers, leaving their mouths more prone to bad breath, cavities, and gum disease. Some are arthritic and have difficulty managing thorough at-home oral care.
For every patient, we strive to help them work around these particular issues so their smile is always healthy and bright. Being committed to good oral health means you can avoid the time and costs associated with treatment for cavities, gum disease, and even tooth replacement.
If you smoke, here are some at-home tips to help you keep your smile in good shape:
• Cigarette (and cigar) smoke is very drying to the tissues in the mouth. This provides an environment for the accumulation of oral bacteria that attack tooth enamel and gum tissues. The goal is to keep your mouth moist throughout the day. Drink lots of plain water (or add cucumber slices or fresh mint as smile-friendly additives). Swish water around your mouth after each cigarette. This will moisten the oral tissues and remove some of the oral bacteria from the mouth. You may also want to begin using a mouthwash that is specifically-designed to replenish oral moisture. These are available over-the-counter in most stores’ pharmacy section.
• Brush thoroughly twice a day. Spend two minutes each time you brush (even if you use an electronic toothbrush). Be careful to reach all sides of every tooth, especially back teeth. Use a soft to medium toothbrush and a toothpaste with fluoride. This will help toughen up tooth enamel. Consider finishing up by brushing the tongue with your toothbrush. There are ka-zillions of bacteria embedded in the tongue and this will help management bacteria levels. Swish and spit several times after.
• Flossing is another area that we try to avoid lecturing. However, this action gives you a ‘leg up’ when it comes to managing bacteria in the mouth. If you find the process uncomfortable, our hygienists can show you easy techniques so you’re doing an effective job in a minimal amount of time (less than 2 minutes). If preferred, use a ‘water flosser.’ Our patients (whether they smoke or not) really like these. They are affordable and easy to use. Too, studies have shown that they can be just as effective as manual flossing. (Read one article on the studies in Dental Economics: https://www.dentaleconomics.com/articles/print/volume-101/issue-30/features/water-flosser-can-address-futility-of-floss.html)
• Your regular dental check-ups (cleanings and exams) are designed to remove the buildup of oral bacteria (that forms plaque, which can harden into tartar). If you smoke, your gums are more susceptible to the hazards of cigarettes. For some patients, we arrange their dental cleanings to occur every 4 months rather than every six. This additional visit helps many of these patients avoid problems in the first place.
We want to support you in finding the best way to have fresh breath, healthy gums, and teeth that create a fabulous smile! If you are behind on regular dental visits, you may want to begin with a no-charge consultation. During this time, we can discuss ways we can help you have a confident smile.
If dental fears have prevented you from having regular dental care, we can also discuss ways to help you achieve the smile you desire through oral or I.V. sedation. You’ll also find that our entire team is committed to providing a comfortable experience with a gentle touch, at every visit!
Call 843-871-6351 to schedule or learn more.