Tobacco in cigarette, pipe, and chewing forms contains many toxins that can cause significant damage to your entire body, including your mouth. If you use tobacco in any of its forms, it is extra important for you to see a dentist on a regular basis. So contact us to set up your appointment
Smoking tobacco products are widely known to cause problems deeper in the system, like the lungs and throat. However, they can still manifest themselves orally as well. Smoking causes discoloration of the teeth, gum disease, and increase the risk of oral cancer.
Teeth discoloration from smoking can partially be compensated for by using whitening products, but the drying out that occurs during the staining process can leave the teeth more brittle and prone to breaking.
Gum disease is caused by smoking as the toxins constrict the blood vessels in the gum tissue, reducing the blood flow to them. This decreases your gums ability to repair itself and withstand trauma. Quitting smoking will allow the gum tissue to heal and regain its regenerative capability. However, reversing the damage done by the gum disease during the years of smoking often requires gum surgery, and in many cases, is not correctable at all.
Oral cancer from smoking will often occur on the lip where the pipe or cigarette is held. It will also occur in the throat or back of the mouth. Oral cancer is very aggressive due to the naturally high turn over rate of oral tissue. This is why every routine exam at My Family Dentist includes an examination for oral cancer. This is also why all individuals should have regular exams no more than a year apart, even if you have no teeth.
Chewing tobacco products have the same oral side effects as smoking, but the risk for oral cancer can be much higher. Most tobacco chewers will store the tobacco between their teeth and cheek or lip for significant periods of time. Often, the same spot in the mouth is used to store the tobacco. This results in a chronic localized irritation. The initial signs are a toughening and whitening of the skin. This is a defensive mechanism as the body tries to defend itself from the attacking toxins. This reaction is known as tobacco pouch keratosis and is represented in the following picture.
This condition can be reversed if the offending habit is stopped. But until that happens, the condition requires constant monitoring as the thick white patch can mask out cancer with dire consequences.