When you picked up your smoking habit, you never dreamed about what it would do to your teeth. After all, when people talk about smoking, they usually talk about the effect of your lungs and the possibility of cancer. But the fact is, smoker’s teeth is a real thing and can be just as detrimental.
The good news is:
There are things you can do to help your teeth if they’ve suffered damage from smoking. The smoker’s teeth you’re left with don’t have to be the end of your story.
How Smoking Affects Your Teeth
You may have noticed from your own teeth, the effect smoking has on teeth. But some of these you may not know.
- 1Teeth stains
If left untreated, smoker’s teeth will eventually turn brown because nicotine stains the teeth. And the more you smoke, the faster the discoloration will occur.
Your teeth are porous just like your skin, and they absorb nicotine and tar from tobacco. Although nicotine is colorless, when it comes into contact with oxygen, it turns yellow.
The tar, on the other hand, attaches itself to the enamel on the outer surface of your teeth and leaves brown stains. If left untreated, the nicotine and tar will penetrate the outer dentin layer of the tooth, making it difficult to remove the stains.
- 2Buildup of hardened plaque (calculus)
Normally the saliva inside the mouth keeps the inside of the mouth clean. But cigarette smoking dries the inside of the mouth, which makes it easier for bacteria to flourish.
That can cause a faster buildup of plaque and tartar than in a non-smoker’s mouth. So, smokers need to be vigilant about their oral health to prevent tooth and gum decay.
- 3Gum disease
Smoking can also cause gum disease. The act of smoking constricts the blood vessels inside the mouth, leaving less oxygen available for the soft tissue inside the mouth. That results in an increased risk of gum infections and deterioration of gum health overall.
And that’s not the worst part:
Smokers have a 64 percent greater chance of developing gum disease than non-smokers. Also, smokers often have stains around their gumline, which causes the shrinking of the gums surrounding the roots of the teeth. The result of that is sensitive gums and eventual tooth loss.
And when you have sensitive gums, it’s hard to tolerate extremely hot or cold food.
Gum disease itself is indicated by swollen or bleeding gums and should be taken as seriously as the discoloration of smoker’s teeth.
But here’s the good news:
Many smokers don’t realize that cutting down their smoking can improve their chances of keeping their gums healthy. By cutting down to half a pack a day, smokers are only three times as likely to develop gum disease when compared to non-smokers.
In fact, smokers who have quit smoking have the same chance of developing gum disease as non-smokers after only 11 years as non-smokers.
- 4Periodontal disease
Smoking also increases the risk of periodontal disease, which affects the root of the tooth and will cause the tooth to fall out if left untreated.
However, this can be easily treated using antimicrobial mouth wash or surgery if necessary. Smokers also have a higher risk of dry socket after the dentist extracts a tooth, which is painful. That’s because the roots of your teeth become sensitive.
The 7 Ways to Treat Smoker’s Teeth
The number one thing you can do as a smoker to save your teeth and gums is to quit.
There are no two other ways about it.
But if you’re not ready to quit to cut down on your overall consumption of tobacco products, there are still things you can do to help yourself.
Here’s a hard fact:
Smokers need to be vigilant about any deterioration in the health of their teeth or gums. Look for any redness, swelling, or white spots develop inside or outside the mouth. If you find any, and it persists after two weeks, be sure to have the dentist check everything.
1. Changes to diet
Smokers should consume fewer acidic foods and beverages to reduce the effects of smoker’s teeth. Consuming acidic food and drinking red wine and coffee increases your risk of enamel breakdown and cavities.
2. Effective brushing
As a smoker, you should brush at least twice a day for a minimum of 2 minutes each time with a stiff-haired toothbrush. You could also use an electric toothbrush, which can easily reach all corners of the mouth.
You need to be especially vigilant to ensure that you brush all the surfaces of your teeth. Electric toothbrushes are clinically proven to be a better choice for removing plaque and are especially effective for smoker’s teeth because they can help smokers remove nicotine and stains.
3. Daily flossing
Regular flossing is also important because smoking increases the likelihood of bacterial growth inside your mouth.
Flossing involves wrapping floss around each tooth to clean all the crevices between the teeth and will prevent the buildup of bacteria. That, in turn, will help prevent gum disease and cavities.
4. Deep cleaning
If you’re a smoker, you might want to consider a deep cleaning. This type of cleaning can only be carried out by your dentist.
It involves the use of manual and ultrasonic tools which remove plaque from your teeth. Deep cleaning can also involve the scaling of your roots to decrease inflammation and stop future accumulations of plaque.
Because smoking reduces the body’s natural ability to defend itself, smokers are more likely to develop bacterial infections. And the great thing about a deep cleaning is that it will improve the health and the appearance of your teeth immediately.
5. Whitening treatments
Whitening treatments can be carried out at home or the dentist. And there are many options to choose from:
Veneers can permanently improve the appearance of your teeth.
They’re attached to your teeth with cement during a cosmetic dentistry procedure. Dentists can only apply veneers to structurally strong teeth, and it may take a few visits to the dentist. That’s especially true if you wish to attach them to all of your teeth, because each set of veneers is created and fitted individually.
7. Dental implants
Dental implants are a possible solution if you’ve lost your teeth due to smoking. These are a permanent solution and replace the root and crown of the tooth.
It involves removing all of your broken teeth and leaving your gums to heal for up to 12 weeks before a dentist inserts metal pins into your jaw.
The dentist will then attach replacement teeth to the metal pins. A specially designed set of implants is expensive and can cost over $2,500 per tooth. Unfortunately, if you continue to smoke after having dental implants, this can lead to further pain and discoloration.
Dentures are a cheaper and quicker option.
Make Your Smoker’s Teeth Top Priority
Although smokers suffer from smoker’s teeth, there are many options available to help. Simple changes to diet, daily dental care, and a commitment to regular visits to a good dentist can benefit your mouth in a big way.
The truth is:
The health and appearance of your teeth are directly affected by the amount of cigarettes or tobacco products you use. You can reduce the effects by cutting back, but the best thing to do is quit entirely.
If you choose not to go that route, be vigilant. Make your oral care a priority. Because if you don’t, these problems can get out of hand. Just follow our tips above. You can also talk with one of the team at Your Caring Dentist Group. We can discuss a plan for improving the appearance of your smoker's teeth.
Have you suffered from smoker’s teeth? Do you have any tips or stories about your struggle? Let us know in the comments!