Smoking & Vaping Information
Most people are now aware that smoking is bad for their health. The graphic images on cigarette packs these days serve as a constant reminder. Many, however, still don’t realise the damage that smoking does to their mouth, gums and teeth.
On the cosmetic front, smoking contributes to tooth discolouration. The tar and nicotine found in cigarettes can stain the enamel of teeth, creating a yellowish or brownish appearance. This discolouration is often stubborn and difficult to remove through regular brushing or dental cleanings. Smoking can also lead to bad breath, as it dries out the mouth and promotes the growth of bacteria that cause foul odours.
More seriously, smoking can also result in gum disease. Smokers are more likely to produce bacterial plaque which leads to the condition. The gums are affected because smoking causes a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, so the infected gums don’t heal. Gum disease progresses quicker in smokers than in non-smokers. And gum disease is still the most common cause of tooth loss in adults.
More serious still is the fact that oral cancer is caused by tobacco. The chemicals in tobacco smoke, such as benzene and formaldehyde, are carcinogenic and can damage the DNA of cells in the oral cavity.
Nearly 1,900 people die from oral cancer each year in England and rates are increasing, especially among younger people.
And what about vaping? Smoking e-cigarettes may seem less harmful than smoking regular cigarettes. Yet this may not be the case for the health of your mouth.
When you vape, you inhale e-liquids which, even when labelled ‘nicotine-free’, can contain harmful substances, although in low levels. These include:
- Heavy metals
- Volatile organic compounds
- Cancer-causing chemicals
The risk of vaping devices causing problems in your mouth is much higher if they contain nicotine.
While vaping is endorsed by the NHS, it is only on the grounds of being a temporary support aid to quitting smoking and staying quit. The long-term effects of vaping are not known. Yet there is some evidence that vaping can cause inflammation in the mouth, which can lead to gum disease and other oral health problems. Temporary loss of taste may happen in some people too (also called vape tongue).
Is it time to think about quitting the habit? You don’t have to go cold turkey. Reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke to start off with will help. And your dental team are ready to assist you. We often work with local smoking cessation teams, so advice and support are always at hand.