It is well known that smoking can cause lung cancer, premature ageing, damage your heart, negatively affect your blood circulation and increase your likelihood of having a stroke. However, what is not so commonly known, is that it can also be bad for the health of your mouth and throat. To help mark National No Smoking Day on 8th March, we wanted to highlight five ways smoking can damage your oral health.
While poor oral hygiene is the main culprit for bad breath, smoking can also be a leading factor. The reason smoking causes bad breath is because the chemicals in tobacco smoke can linger in the mouth, lungs and throat, which leads to the stale smoke smell.
Damages your sense of taste
If you love food but still smoke, you might be disappointed to find that smoking can damage your taste buds. The harmful chemicals in cigarettes interact with your taste buds and alter their shape – they tend to become flatter, which impairs them from doing their job effectively. A recent study in France found that smokers and former smokers were less adept at picking up bitter tastes. This means that smokers are not able to fully appreciate the full flavour of such things like coffee.
Gum disease is common in smokers. This is because smoking weakens your body’s immune system, meaning it becomes harder to fight infection such as gum disease. It can also lead to bad breath and in the worst cases; tooth loss.
Stains your teeth
It is nicotine and tar that is mainly responsible for staining a smoker’s teeth yellow, and if you have been a heavy smoker for a long period of time they can even eventually go brown. While the staining is only surface deep it is difficult to remove such stains. It is possible to use teeth whitener but the only sure fire way to get rid of it is to stop smoking, and then have your dentist clean your teeth.
According to the NHS, 93% of oropharyngeal cancers (throat cancer) are caused by smoking. Smoking can also cause cancer of the lips, tongue, voice box and gullet. It is also worth noting that ‘smokeless’ tobacco such as snuff and chewing tobacco can also lead to oral cancers (as can passive smoking).
However, if you stop smoking, even if you have been smoking for many years, you can significantly reduce the risk of oral cancers. After 20 years of being smoke-free, your risk is the same as a non-smoker.
On March 8th is No Smoking Day. If you want to kick the habit, click here for a large array of resources that may help you to quit smoking for good.