You can get tooth decay from smoking a lot, but how? We all know that smoking can cause different types of cancer, but did you know it also causes gum disease, tooth decay, and other oral health problems? About one-third of smokers have some type of dental disease. Smoking can cause harmful effects to your teeth and gums, which can lead to tooth loss. Besides, nicotine and tar from cigarette smoke stick to your teeth, causing yellow or stained teeth. So, It is important to understand how tooth decay from smoking happens, so you know what you are up against if you smoke.
What is Tooth Decay & How Does it Occur?
To understand how tooth decay from smoking happens, you should know what tooth decay is and its causes. Tooth decay, also known as dental caries, is a disease that destroys tooth enamel and dentin due to specific types of bacteria. These bacteria are found in plaque, which is a sticky, clear film that forms on teeth and gums. Bacteria found in plaque break down food particles (carbohydrates) and produce acid that attacks the enamel, causing tooth decay. This process is called demineralization, which means the loss of minerals from the teeth.
Causes & Risk Factors
Do you know what causes tooth decay? It’s a common misconception that it only comes from eating too much sugar. But the truth is, several factors contribute to tooth decay. These factors increase bacterial growth in the mouth and allow plaque and tartar build-up on your teeth and gums. These factors include:
- Poor oral hygiene.
- Dry mouth condition (also known as xerostomia).
- Eating foods and drinks high in sugar, like candy and soda.
- Some medical conditions such as anorexia and bulimia, which can lead to significant tooth erosion and tooth decay.
How Tooth Decay from Smoking Happens?
Smoking can cause dry mouth that increases tooth decay risk. A dry mouth means a significantly reduced production of saliva, which is needed to reduce plaque buildup and the growth of bacteria in your mouth. Saliva not only helps neutralize the harmful acids that break down tooth enamel (demineralization), but it also washes away food particles on your teeth and gums. Also, saliva helps in the remineralization process, which adds minerals to the teeth.
The more food you consume, the more often your salivary glands produce saliva. But when you smoke cigarettes, The nicotine in tobacco reduces saliva flow, causing dry mouth. This allows bacteria and plaque to remain on your teeth, which increases the risk of tooth decay. The longer the bacteria attach to your teeth, the more acid they produce. This leads to tooth decay over time and other oral health problems like gum disease.
Not Only Tooth Decay, but Smoking Can also Cause Other Oral Health Problems
Besides tooth decay, you can get gum disease from smoking. Smokers have a two to four times higher risk of gum disease than nonsmokers. Smoking can cause oral health problems, include:
- Tooth discoloration (staining) and yellowing.
- Persistent bad breath.
- Dry mouth condition and taste alteration.
- Gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Tooth decay and abscess.
- Tooth loss.
- Incomplete or delayed healing after oral surgery.
- Increased risk of oral cancer.
If you suspect that you have oral health problems such as gum disease or tooth decay, visit your dentist to prevent serious issues. Learn more about early gingivitis symptoms.
Oral Hygiene Tips for Smokers
Quitting smoking is the best way to improve your oral health. But if you are a smoker, there are some things you can do to prevent tooth decay and other oral health problems from smoking:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day, with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled brush.
- Floss at least once a day to remove plaque and food particles from between teeth.
- Use a mouthwash to help prevent plaque buildup.
- Eat a healthy diet and limit snacking to reduce the risk of tooth decay.
- Drink plenty of water to keep your mouth moist.
- Visit your dentist or oral hygienist regularly for professional teeth cleaning.
- Smoke in moderation or quit smoking completely to protect your oral health. Learn more about effects of smoking after oral surgery.
Tooth Decay from Smoking – Conclusion
Smoking is not just linked to lung cancer, it also has negative effects on your oral health. The tooth decay from smoking is so serious that it can lead to tooth loss if not dealt with promptly. In this article, you learned how tooth decay happens and what risk factors increase your chances of getting tooth decay. We also provided some tips for improving oral health while still being a smoker. If you suspect that you have oral health problems such as gum disease or tooth decay from smoking, visit your dentist to prevent serious issues.