Smoking is costly in more ways than you might realize. For starters, its impact on our healthcare costs is enormous. The Province of Ontario claims that tobacco use costs our province $1.6 billion annually for health care.
The recognized dangers of smoking including heart and lung disease cannot be denied. Smoking is the #1 cause of illness and premature death in Ontario with about 13,000 fatalities every year.
But, did you know that tobacco products are also harmful to your oral health and that even occasional smoking can contribute to serious oral health risks? Studies by the American Academy of Periodontology have shown that tobacco use may be one of the most significant risk factors in the development of periodontal (gum) disease. Moreover, following periodontal treatment or any type of oral surgery, the chemicals in tobacco can slow down the healing process and make the treatment results less predictable.
While smoking may look chic, sophisticated and glamourous (especially to the younger members of our community) in part because of the many movie and music celebrities depicted using tobacco products, there is nothing glamourous or sexy about bad breath, stained teeth, the increased severity of gum disease, oral lesions or oral cancer; all of which may result from the use of tobacco products.
Loss of taste, mouth sores, gum recession, facial wrinkling and bone loss have been found by researchers to occur more often in people who use tobacco products. Research also shows that smokers lose more teeth than non-smokers do. Only about 20% of people over the age of 65 who have never smoked are toothless, while a whopping 41% of smokers over the age of 65 are toothless.
Oral cancer is one of the most devastating effects of smoking, the risk of developing gum disease increases with the number of cigarettes smoked each day and the number of years that you’ve been smoking. The most significant step you can take in helping prevent oral cancer is to eliminate the use of tobacco products altogether.
Visiting the dentist regularly is a good way to help diagnose or detect any early signs of disease. If you ever notice any swelling, lump growth, or hardness in the mouth or neck; red or white patches in the mouth; any difficulty chewing or swallowing; repeated bleeding in the mouth; or any sore that does not heal within two weeks, please have it checked promptly. If there are any abnormal tissue changes, the dentist can take a biopsy to confirm a diagnosis for you. While many oral lesions may not be cancerous, it’s best to be safe if anything looks or feels unusual. The good news is that oral cancer can be detected in its early stages, and early detection increases the chance of successful treatment.
Here’s hoping that the news of a $50 billion lawsuit against tobacco manufacturers by the Province of Ontario to help cover healthcare costs, together with a quick visit to one of our offices for a thorough examination will give you motivation to really try to quit smoking once and for all. During your visit, our hygienists can also clean the nicotine and tar that have stained your teeth. We think you’ll discover that a bright, clean healthy smile will give you a good reason not to smoke again!
Yours for better dental health,
Dr. Russell Grover