Want Healthy Teeth? Avoid Tobacco!

Recognizing the Great American Smokeout, November 18, 2010

Ameritas Insight No Smoking

Do you have a great smile? Do you have healthy teeth? If you use tobacco products in any form, you may be at risk of damaging your oral health.

Approximately 36,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with oral cancer; just over 50 percent of these individuals will be alive in five years. Tobacco use kills more Americans each year than deaths from AIDS, alcohol, homicides, suicides, car accidents, fires and use of illegal drugs combined.

Use of any tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes and smokeless products, affects the bones and soft tissues in your mouth. Over time, your gums will recede and expose the roots of your teeth, which may cause increased sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures and higher incidences of tooth decay.

Individuals who use tobacco products also have a higher risk of oral cancer. Oral cancer can affect any area of the mouth, including the lips, gums, cheeks, tongue or the hard or soft palate. Review these signs and symptoms of oral cancer:

  • Mouth irritations and sores that do not heal
  • Areas in the mouth that are tender or numb
  • Color changes to the soft tissues inside your mouth
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving the tongue or jaw
  • A lump or leathery wrinkled patch inside your mouth
  • Prolonged sore throat
  • Changes in how your teeth fit together

Tobacco use can lead to other health issues:

  • Tooth decay
  • Throat cancer
  • Bad breath
  • Discolored, stained teeth
  • Decreased taste or smell
  • Diminished lung capacity, causing breathlessness, chronic cough and emphysema
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure, which could result in a heart attack or stroke
  • Higher risk of dying following surgery
  • Increased incidences of colorectal cancer
  • Reduced appetite, leading to weight loss and reduced immunity to diseases


The Best Recommendation?
For the sake of your long-term oral health and to minimize the risk of developing oral cancer and other serious health concerns, the best solution is to stop using tobacco. Routine dental exams can help detect tobacco-related illnesses in and around the oral cavity during stages that are more curable.

Do you know someone who might be a candidate for tobacco-related illness? If you use tobacco, are you visiting your dentist regularly? Share your thoughts and I’ll post the responses in a future blog. –Ken VanCleave, Ameritas Group