It's no secret that smoking is bad for you. It causes lung cancer, heart disease, and a host of other ailments. You might be surprised, however, that your dentist—and not just your doctor—has been urging you to give up your tobacco habit. Your dentist is not just urging you not to smoke because it makes your teeth yellow (although that is one side effect of smoking). There are actually some other dangerous dental risks associated with smoking.
Anyone can develop gum disease, but smokers are at a much higher risk of this condition. Gum disease, which is essentially an infection of the gums with oral bacteria, starts off minor with a little bleeding and swelling of the gums. Over time, however, it becomes much worse. The gums form pockets and teeth begin to loosen in their sockets. In advanced stages, gum disease causes tooth loss.
You can fight gum disease with flossing, deep dental cleanings, and antibiotics, but if you don't stop smoking, you'll have a very hard time getting rid of it. When your dentist warns you to stop smoking, it might be because you're developing gum disease, and he or she would like for you to keep your teeth.
Though lung cancer is the best-known cancer associated with smoking, many smokers develop oral cancers, or cancer of the mouth. These cancers are tough to catch early, since their first symptoms are often non-distinct. Red patches in the mouth, difficulty chewing, tingling in the throat, and voice changes all indicate oral cancer.
Usually, the treatment for this cancer involves removing some of the mouth tissue, and often some of the teeth and affected gums. Collaboration between a dentist and a doctor is often required. Perhaps your dentist is tired of treating patients for this devastating disease and is recommending that you quit smoking so you don't become the next one.
You may not notice your smelly breath because you're used to it, but if you're a smoker, chances are good that others don't find your breath pleasant. A lot of smokers seek advice from their dentists on improving their breath. While mouthwashes, regular flossing, and thorough brushing can help a little, the only real way to get rid of bad breath as a smoker is to quit the habit.
When your dentist tells you to seriously work on quitting smoking, he or she really does have your best interests at heart. Smoking is a habit that's terrible for the mouth. Unless you want your future to involve missing teeth, oral cancer, and stinky breath, you'd better put down those cigarettes.