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Tobacco Use and Oral Health

Tobacco usage of all types, including smokeless tobacco or “chew,” is a primary cause of many preventable diseases. These include oral cancer, periodontal disease, and even birth defects in children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy. Unfortunately, many tobacco users don’t fully understand the impact its use can have on their health. For example, according to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, only 29 percent of smokers say they believe they are at a greater risk of having a heart attack than their nonsmoking peers. Educating users on the damaging effects of tobacco use is the first and likely most important step in illustrating the health issues it can cause.

So how does smoking negatively affect oral health, specifically? First, it greatly increases your risk of developing periodontal disease. Problems such as calculus (plaque) deposits, deep gum pockets, and loss of bone and tissue that support teeth are just a few of the issues smokers are more likely to see. Without treatment, the bacteria trapped in deep gum pockets eats away at the tissue and supporting bone structure in the mouth, which can cause teeth to become loose, painful, and even fall out. Research has shown that 41.3% of smokers over age 65 are toothless, vs. only 20% of nonsmokers of the same age group. Smokers in particular must keep a close eye on their oral health and visit their dentist for regular cleanings at least every six months, and likely more frequently for deep, periodontal cleanings.

Besides smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco, using a pipe, and smoking cigars are all also associated with oral health problems. Studies have shown that all of these forms of tobacco use cause tooth and alveolar bone loss that is equivalent to that found in cigarette smokers.

In addition to all of the above conditions, tobacco use is also associated with these oral health issues:

Oral cancer Tooth loss Bone loss Loss of taste Gum recession Bad breath Stained teeth Mouth sores Facial wrinkling

If you are interested in quitting smoking and you are a Michigan resident, the State of Michigan offers smoking cessation medications at low or no cost, including nicotine patches, for those who do not have insurance. Dr. Kotre is also happy to help with any smoking cessation questions you may have. Please give us a call at 734-677-2156 for more information.


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