The mouth is where cigarette damage originates. It is literally the entrance point for every inhalation of smoke, beginning the cycle of ill effects that it eventually causes throughout the entire body. Most people realize that smoking causes yellow teeth, and many assume that this is simply from the staining effect that smoke can have. Like many of the other health problems associated with smoking, however, the depth and breadth of the oral health deterioration linked to cigarettes is much wider than a simple cosmetic issue.
Yellowing of the teeth is actually one of the least harmful dental problems that smokers face. The teeth begin to turn yellow because the smoke begins to stain them, much in the way that coffee can stain teeth, or how smoke can stain walls, clothing and furniture after exposure. At the onset, this is just a minor cosmetic issue, but it is usually just an indicator that overall dental health is declining.
Under The Surface
On the surface, the yellow stain associated with smoking seems relatively harmless, and only mildly affects the appearance as a whole. However, there are many other ways that smoking is doing severe, long-term damage to the mouth and teeth.
The chemicals in smoke that stain the teeth are also quickly working to wear away at the protective enamel on them. This enamel, which gives teeth their ‘gloss’ also works as a sort of armor against decay and infection. Potent fumes from a lit cigarette that contain harsh chemicals like ammonia weaken this enamel, leaving the teeth vulnerable. Sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages can manifest as an early warning sign that the teeth are losing this necessary protection. Sugars present as sweeteners in tobacco contribute to many of these problems.
Gum disease also sets in rapidly. As the smoke moves past the gums, it also steeps them in chemicals, irritating and damaging them. Blood flow is reduced throughout the entire body when smoking, and this includes blood flow to the mouth and gums. All of this results in the gums becoming damaged. Gum recession can begin, causing an avalanche of periodontal disease.
When the gums recede, more of the teeth are then bared and lose the protection of the gum. Going back up to the damage that smoke has on teeth, it means that there is even more surface area of the tooth that can be eroded. Teeth may even begin to become loose from the gums, exposing roots to infection. When the gums do not fit snug against the teeth, it also allows food and bacteria to lodge in the open spaces, causing tooth decay in vulnerable areas.
This bacterial growth leads to a wide array of problems, including:
- Plaque Growth
- Bad Breath
- Mouth Sores
- Tooth Decay
Just the buildup of plaque daisy-chains into more complex issues. Resulting plaque can then turn into tartar, which cannot be removed by simple brushing and daily oral health care. Throughout the entire cycle of bacteria/plaque/tartar, the mouth is more sensitive to irritation, causing more and more risk of infection and decay. It also ruins the appearance of the teeth far beyond simple staining.
Even more serious, bone loss within the actual jaw can occur, alongside a heightened risk of oral cancer.
Keeping Up Appearances
The serious health risks that many smokers know about are only a part of a bigger picture. Smoking can easily and rapidly take away something many people take for granted - a smile. Yellowing teeth due to cigarettes, gum disease, cavities and bad breath are as unattractive as they are unhealthy. Quitting or reducing smoking as quickly as possible can help avoid these problems, and can ensure that a full, healthy, lifetime of beautiful smiles is ahead.