Did you know tobacco use (such as waterless pipes, cigars, and cigarillos) and cigarette smoking are among the leading causes of preventable illness in the United States? Smoking accounts for approximately 20% of deaths per year. A majority of people now realize how harmful smoking is for their overall health, but don’t truly understand ALL of the effects tobacco has on your mouth, gums, and teeth. It can cause a wide variety of medical issues and in some cases, fatal diseases.
Because tobacco interferes with regular function of gum-tissue cells, smokers often don’t realize that they have gum disease.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than one-third of smokers have at least three dental health issues and that 13 out of every 100 adults are smokers. Whether you smoke occasionally or pack a day, it’s important to be aware of the harmful oral effects of smoking.
What Does Smoking Do to Your Oral Health?
When you light a cigarette and inhale that first puff, you probably aren’t considering the effects on your teeth. But since your mouth is tobacco’s entryway, it naturally takes a toll on your pearly whites.
These are some of the ways smoking affects your teeth:
- Tooth discoloration
- Bad breath
- Dulls sense of smell and taste
- Increases plaque buildup and tartar on teeth
- Gum disease
- Tooth decay and increased risk for cavities
- Increased risk for Leukoplakia, white patches inside of the mouth
- Oral cancer
- Lowers success of dental implants
- Slower healing after periodontal treatment, tooth extraction, or other surgery
- Increased loss of bone within the jaw
How Does Tobacco Usage Affect Your Gums?
Continued tobacco use and cigarette smoking can lead to gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. Periodontitis is the result of an infection that destroys the bone surrounding and supporting your teeth. Smokers and tobacco users are twice as likely to contract gum disease. Because tobacco interferes with regular function of gum-tissue cells, smokers often don’t realize that they have gum disease, meaning that plenty of time might pass before you’re aware of a problem.
Warning signs of gum disease include:
- Bad breath or a foul taste that won’t go away
- Red or swollen gums
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Painful chewing
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
- Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Any change in the fit of partial dentures
Trying something to beat the urge to use tobacco is better than doing nothing.
9 Ways to Resist Tobacco Cravings
For many tobacco users, the cravings to use are strong. Typically, urges usually only last between 5 and 10 minutes. Each time you resist the urge to smoke, you’re one step closer to achieving your health goals.
Here are 9 ways you can fight the urge to smoke or use tobacco when those cravings strike:
- Nicotine replacement therapy. This can include prescription nicotine in a nasal spray or inhaler, nicotine patches or gum, and prescription non-nicotine stop-smoking drugs like Bupropion (Wellbutrin).
- Avoid triggers. Tobacco urges typically are stronger in places where you chewed or smoked tobacco most often, such as parties or bars, or at times when you’re under stress, or even as simple as drinking coffee.
- Delay. If you find yourself suddenly craving a smoke, allow yourself 10 minutes, and then distract yourself during that time. Chances are, you’ll forget you even wanted to smoke.
- Chew on it. Give your mouth something else to do to resist tobacco craving. This can be sugarless gum or something crunchy like a carrot.
- Don’t just have “one.” As tempting as it may sound, do your best to avoid it! Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can have just one. More often than not, it leads to one more.
- Get physical. Exercise can distract you from cravings, even short bursts of physical activity such as cleaning a space in your home, walking up and down the stairs, or even a quick jog.
- Try relaxation techniques. Smoking may have been your way of dealing with stress, and fighting against the urge to smoke can cause even more stress. Learn how to take the edge off by practicing breathwork, meditation, yoga, or any other tools that bring a sense of relaxation.
- Remind yourself of the benefits. Write down or say out loud why you want to stop smoking and resist tobacco cravings. These reasons may include, feeling better, getting healthier, sparing your loved ones from secondhand smoke, and saving money.
- Use an app. Like most everything these days, you can kick the habit using a cessation app on your phone. Track your days, build a community, and get support.
Trying something to beat the urge to use tobacco is better than doing nothing. And each time you resist a tobacco craving, you’re one step closer to being tobacco-free.
The Asheville Dental team understands breaking the habit is hard. Let’s talk about your oral health goals. We will support you as you work to improve your oral health and overall well-being. Contact us today.