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It’s probably safe to assume that just about everyone can speak to the dangers of smoking, even if they don’t want to. For many people, smoking is a habit they just can’t kick, no matter how many ways or number of times they’ve tried. For others, the warnings on the sides of cigarette cartons apparently fail to prove scary enough to inspire them to stop smoking.

And while the potential damage to your health done by smoking is well known, some staggering statistics suggest that perhaps smoking’s negative effects on oral health and hygiene aren’t as obvious.

Here’s what you need to know when it comes to the scary side effects of smoking and your smile.

So Long, Smile!

Smoking does a serious number on your smile. By number, we’re counting teeth, or the lack thereof, more specifically. Check out these frightening facts from the Academy of General Dentistry:

  • Women who smoke lose approximately 1.5 teeth per decade
  • Men who smoke lose up to approximately 2.9 teeth per decade

In other words, over time, your smile will start to look like Swiss cheese. Full of holes. And the smell will rival that of a ripe wedge of Stilton. Smokers are notorious when it comes to bad breath and no wonder. Smoking increases bacterial plaque inside the mouth, leading to gum disease. Altoids mints are no match for these dirty mouths, no matter how much the commercials suggest otherwise.

And “curiously strong” though these teeny mints may be, those who smoke won’t appreciate their full strength because smoking, over time, deadens the sense of taste and dulls out taste buds. That’s the trick to smoking – it takes the taste right out your favorite treats.

If an increasingly toothless smile and alienating breath aren’t reasons enough to say “So long!” to cigarettes, rest assured, the horror show is just getting started.

Behind the Smoke Screen

Often, people find it hard to believe what they can’t see. Like whether or not ghosts really exist. This is true of cigarettes, specifically the very real danger they pose to health and wellness. Beginning in 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General warned the American public about the threat inherent in smoking. Thanks to the 1965 Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, all cigarette boxes were printed with the warning, “Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health.” Of course, we now know that smoking most certainly is hazardous to your health, and we have the medical research and data to prove its harmful effects on your oral health as well. The Centers for Disease Control cites the following:

  • 16% of individuals who smoke have poor dental health
  • More than 1/3 of people who smoke suffer a minimum of three dental health issues at any given time
  • 2% of men and women who smoke are likely to develop gum disease as a direct result of smoking

So, what’s going on behind the scenes that support these facts and figures?

Smoking – The Silent Cell Slayer

To fully appreciate what these numbers mean, you have to understand what smoking does to the cells inside your mouth. Smoking interferes with the healthy functioning of the cells that comprise your gum tissue. And while you can’t see it happening, this interference results in the increased likelihood of developing advanced oral infections, like periodontal disease. In fact, the American Society for Microbiology attributes a minimum 40% of incidents of periodontal disease directly to smoking.

Oral infections of any kind take longer to heal, thanks to smoking, because smoking deprives your blood of the oxygen necessary to supply a healthy blood flow to your gums. A weakened blood flow to the gums extends the healing time, which leaves smokers vulnerable to further infection in surrounding tissues.

The Final Blow

Granted, you can’t see the damage as it happens, but you will certainly start to feel it and, if you continue to smoke, you might find yourself confronted by some deadly villains known as cancers. Although smoking is often immediately considered the culprit behind lung cancer, the fact remains that other cancers, like those of the throat, mouth, tongue, and lips, are more prevalent among smokers than non-smokers. For those non-smokers afflicted with any of these cancers, the cause is often determined as second-hand smoke.

Even more frightening perhaps is the likelihood of developing these diseases, based upon duration of the habit and number of cigarettes smoked on a regular basis.

  • An estimated 90% of those who develop cancer of the throat, mouth, tongue, and/or lips, and those at an increased risk of such diagnoses, are directly related to how long and how much an individual smoked.

Sadly, while you might assume that a run-in with one of these gruesome diseases would cure anyone of the desire to smoke, an estimated 37% of individuals diagnosed with one of these cancers who continues to smoke following successful treatment of the disease will develop additional oral cancers.

On the positive flip side, only 6% of those smokers who stopped risk developing any other oral cancers, following the successful treatment of the first.

Lay the Smack Down on Cigs

The toughest battles are better fought with back up. Call in for reinforcements by scheduling some quality time with your dental care team. It’s not too late to quit smoking and reinvest in your oral and overall health. Stamp out the cig, pick up the phone, and call 617-984-5888 to make an appointment with Shelby at the Quincy office, or Sara, in Malden. Whichever location is most convenient for you to kick start this battle, know that you have all the reinforcement you’ll need with your team at Diamond Dental.