This article outlines the effects of smoking on your teeth and general oral health. It also details what you can do about your smokers teeth to improve their health and appearance and covers available treatments

Smoking does not only stain your teeth, it also seriously affects the health of your gums, which can lead to periodontal disease and teeth loss. There are however a series of steps you can take to prevent your teeth from deteriorating further and to repair the damage to your smokers teeth.

How Smoking Effects Your Teeth

smokers teeth with tobacco

Smoking affects your teeth in a number of ways.

  • 1
    Teeth Stains

If left untreated, a smoker's teeth will eventually turn brown as nicotine stains the teeth. The more you smoke the faster the discoloration will occur. Your teeth are porous just like your skin and absorb nicotine and tar from tobacco. Although nicotine is colorless when it comes in contact with oxygen it turns yellow. The tar in cigarettes also attaches itself to the enamel on the outer surface of your teeth and leaves brown stains. If left untreated, the nicotine and tar with penetrate the outer dentin layer of the tooth, making it difficult to remove the stains.

  • 2
    Build Up of Hardened Plaque (Calculus)

Normally the saliva inside the mouth keeps the inside of the mouth clean. Cigarette smoking drys the inside of the mouth, which makes it easier for bacteria to flourish. This can cause a faster buildup of plaque and tartar than in a non-smoker's mouth which is why smokers need to be vigilant about their oral health so they can prevent tooth and gum decay.

  • 3
    Gum Disease 

Smoking can also cause gum disease because smoking constricts the blood vessels inside the mouth, resulting in less oxygen being available for the soft tissue inside the mouth. This results in an increased risk of gum infections and deterioration of gum health overall.  Smokers have a  64% greater chance of developing gum disease than non-smokers.  Smokers often have stains around their gumline—this is also a result of gum disease which causes the shrinking of the gums surrounding the roots of the teeth. This leads to sensitive gums which makes it harder for smokers to tolerate extremely hot or cold food and also leads to eventual tooth loss.  

Gum disease is indicated by swollen or bleeding gums and should be taken as seriously as the discoloration of smokers' teeth.

Many smokers do not realize that cutting down their smoking can improve their chances of keeping their gums healthy. People who cut down to half a pack of cigarettes a day only have a three times as likely a risk as non-smokers of developing gum disease. Smokers who have quit smoking have the same chance of developing gum disease as non-smokers after only 11 years as non-smokers.

  • 4
    Periodontal Disease

Smoking also increases the risk of periodontal disease which effects 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 a tooth has been extracted which is painful as the roots of teeth become sensitive.

How to Treat Smokers Teeth

Other than quitting smoking and cutting down on overall consumption of tobacco products, smokers can take action against further deterioration in the health of their teeth and their gums.

They can consume fewer acidic foods and beverages, which increase their risk of enamel breakdown and cavities, and they can ensure that they visit the dentist regularly for a full examination and cleaning of their teeth.

Smokers also need to be vigilant about any deterioration in the health of their teeth or gums, and if any redness, swelling, or white spots develop inside our outside the mouth and persist after two weeks, be sure to have the dentist check everything.

woman with vegetables

1. Changes to Diet

Smokers can consume fewer acidic foods and beverages to reduce the effects of smokers teeth.  Consuming acidic food and drinking red wine and coffee increases their risk of enamel breakdown and cavities. 

woman brushing teeth

2. Effective Brushing

Smokers should brush at least twice a day for a minimum of 2 minutes each time with a stiff-haired toothbrush or electrical toothbrush which can easily reach all corners of the mouth. Smokers need to be especially vigilant in ensuring that they brush all the surfaces of their teeth. Electric toothbrushes are clinically proven to be a better choice for removing plaque and are especially effective for smokers' teeth as they can help smokers remove nicotine and stains on their teeth.

dental floss

3. Daily Flossing

Regular flossing is also important for smokers as smoking increases the likelihood of bacteria growth inside the mouth. Flossing involves wrapping floss around each tooth to clean all the crevices between the teeth and will prevent the buildup of bacteria, which in turn will help prevent gum disease and cavities.

dentist treating her patient

4. Deep Cleaning

A deep cleaning of your teeth can be carried out by your dentist.  This involves the use of manual and ultrasonic tools which are used to remove the plaque from your teeth.  A deep cleaning can also involve the scaling of your roots to decrease inflammation and stop future accumulations of plaque.  As smoking reduces the body's natural ability to defend itself, smokers are more likely to develop bacterial infections. A deep cleaning will improve the health and the appearance of your teeth immediately.

laser teeth whitening

5. Whitening Treatments

Whitening treatments can be carried out at home or at the dentist.  There area number of options to choose from:

Toothpaste

Whitening toothpaste removes stains from the enamel of the teeth and can be effective for smoker's teeth over a period of time. However dentists recommend that smokers alternate their use of smoker's toothpaste, which is especially designed for smokers' teeth, with regular toothpaste as whitening toothpaste contains abrasive elements which can wear down the protective enamel outer layer of teeth.

Mouthwash

Mouthwashes, created for smokers to use twice a day, are also recommended by dentists. They contain hydrogen peroxide which gently removes the stains from your teeth. These also have the added benefit of freshening your breath. 

Gels

Whitening gel is used in the form of a whitening pen and works under a similar principle of coating the teeth with hydrogen peroxide to strip the tooth of its stains, however it is important to note that the enamel on your teeth can be affected. There are newer products which involve adding whitening gel to especially designed plastic tooth beds which are then worn for a period ranging from 45 minutes to 3 hours. 


The teeth are then rinsed and brushed before refitting the tooth beds (which are then filled with an anti-sensitizing liquid). This has been shown to be one of the most effective home treatments for smoker's teeth. Smokers are advised to sleep or refrain from any food or beverage consumption for several hours after this treatment in order to benefit fully from stain removal. 

Treatments

Whitening treatments at the dentist have an immediate effect on smokers teeth.  The dentist will apply a doxycycline whitening gel to your teeth and then apply an ultraviolet light which hardens the gel in a matter of seconds. This treatment is simple and effective.

veneers

6. Veneers

Veneers can permanently improve the appearance of your teeth. They are attached to your teeth with cement in a cosmetic dentistry procedure. Veneers can only be applied to structurally strong teeth and it may take a few visits to the dentist if you wish to attach them to all of your teeth (as each set of veneers has to be created and fitted individually).

dental implants

7. Dental Implants 

Dental implants are a possible solution if you have lost your teeth due to smoking. These are a permanent solution and replace the root and crown of the tooth. This 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. Replacement teeth will be attached to the metal pins once your gums have healed from the surgery. A specially designed set of implants is expensive and can cost over $2500 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.

Conclusion

Although smokers have a greater chance of suffering from smokers teeth, there are many options available to them. Simple changes to diet and daily dental care and a commitment to regular visits to a good dentist can be hugely beneficial in preventing smokers teeth.  Since the health and appearance of the teeth is directly affected by the amount of cigarettes or tobacco products used, even a reduction in smoking can significantly help your teeth and gums to stay healthy.

Although there are a range of whitening products available for you to use at home, the most effective ones need to be administered safely by professional dentists. In the end, however, perhaps the best thing you can do for your smokers teeth-and your health-is to quit smoking entirely.

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