In 2013 it was estimated that in Great Britain there was 10 million adults who smoked, whether that be cigarettes, cigars or a pipe. 22% of those were adult men and 19% adult women. Even though it is illegal to sell cigarettes to those under 18 years of age, approximately 200,000 of children aged between 11-15 started smoking.
We all know the harmful effect smoking has on your general health; it increases the risk of cancer and can increase problems to your heart and lungs etc. But exactly what impact does it have on your oral health?
Tobacco smoke contains over 4000 different chemicals. These are either as gases or as particles. These are not the only chemicals found in cigarettes and tobacco smoke that are detrimental to your health and contribute towards many different medical conditions.
- Carbon monoxide– a highly toxic gas which in high concentrations can prove to be fatal, used in chemical manufacturing and found in car exhausts
- Arsenic – one of the most dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes. Smokers breathe in 10 times more the amount of arsenic than non-smokers. Arsenic is used in wood preservatives.
- Formaldehyde – used in mortuaries and as a preservative in paint. A substance in tobacco smoke that is highly likely to cause diseases to our air ways, Leukaemia and nasopharyngeal cancer.
- Cyanide – a rapidly acting potentially deadly chemical. A substance most likely to cause most damage to the heart and blood vessels.
- Benzene – a chemical used to manufacturer petrol. Just like Arsenic, smokers breathe in 10 times more the amount of benzene than non-smokers. It is well known that Benzene causes cancer in particular Leukeamia.
- Acrolein – this chemical is the strongest irritant found in cigarettes. It is used as a pesticide and is found in car exhaust fumes.
Now we know some of the chemicals found in cigarettes and the smoke produced it is easy to see how it can cause problems to your oral health.
Effects of Smoking
The effects of smoking are both internal and external of the body. Smoking heavily stains your teeth causing them to turn brown or yellow. This is caused by the tar in cigarettes. Depending on how bad the staining is it is not always possible to remove this with your normal toothbrush. Professional cleaning by a Hygienist may be needed. Smoking also leaves a stale taste in your mouth resulting in bad breath and can also reduce your sense of taste.
Smoking greatly increases the possibility of Candida, an overgrowth of fungi in your mouth. It is a white, milky substance that forms in your mouth that needs to be treated with medication. Smoking can also increase the bacteria and yeast in your mouth too leaving you with a furry, dark discoloured tongue. This can usually be removed by brushing but continuous smoking will make this a persistent problem.
You are also at risk of having Gum Disease if you smoke. Smoking increases the build-up of hardened plaque, known as calculus. The only way to remove this is by professional cleaning by a dental hygienist. If not removed the bacteria in the calculus irritates the gums making them red and inflamed. Further build-up of calculus damages the gums further leading to bone loss. Periodontal Disease then occurs and there is then a high possibility you could lose your teeth!
The risk of developing Oral Cancer gradually increases due to the length of time someone has smoked and the amount of cigarettes they smoke in a day. The more you are exposed to these harmful chemicals the more risk you pose to your mouth and your body.
The chemicals in the cigarettes cause cancer by changing the normal functions of oncogenes (a gene that can cause cancer when altered) and tumour suppressor genes in the oral tissues. Over a period of time these changes lead to uncontrolled cell growth and the onset of oral cancer.
It is estimated that 90% of oral cancer in men is caused by smoking and 60% in women and approximately 8000 people die every year due to mouth cancer.
You should see your Dentist if you notice any change in or around your mouth. Cancer often starts in the form of small white patches usually located on the gums or inside of your cheeks. Although if you do notice these lesions it does not mean you have cancer! It could be you have burnt yourself or have bitten your cheek. It’s always best to have it checked though. Other symptoms of cancer include jaw pain, a sore throat, having trouble swallowing and sores on your mouth or lip.
Mouth cancer is treatable if caught early enough. This is why it is important to see your dentist regularly. Early detection leads to quick treatment giving you a higher chance of recovery.
You must remember that mouth cancer is also preventable. Smoking plays a big part in cancer so stopping is a must. Smoking and heavy drinking of alcohol together increases the risk further. If you must, drink in moderation.
Perfect Smile Spa includes Oral Cancer Screening as part of their 6 monthly Examinations and all Hygiene appointments. We are located in the High Street in Hornchurch, Essex and are easily accessible by all forms of transport. No matter your concerns we can help you. With our vast array of treatments available there is always something we can do that will improve your smile and quite possibly change your life!