Smoking and Dental Health

Can smoking cause cavities, failure in implants and more? Your Carmichael dentist explains.

Surgeon General Updates Information About Tobacco

Anyone who reads the warning labels on smokeless tobacco should be aware that, according to the Surgeon General (now Dr. Boris Lushniak), this product can cause oral cancer. For example, the warnings for this product include:

  • WARNING: This product may cause mouth cancer.
  • WARNING: This product may cause gum disease and tooth loss.

What about cigarette smoking and exposure to nicotine? The Surgeon General recently released an update on the connection between tobacco use and health problems, including your dental and oral health. Here are some of the updates, as reported on by the American Dental Association.

In a chapter dedicated strictly to dental disease, the Surgeon General made the following updates:

  • Tobacco use by pregnant women is connected with orafacial clefts in their unborn child.
  • Evidence suggests that smoking leads to cavities.
  • Evidence also suggests that exposure to second-hand smoke leads to cavities in children.
  • Evidence suggests that dental implants fail due to smoking.
  • Discontinuing smoking should be a requirement for patients considering dental implants.
  • Nicotine delivery products, such as e-cigarettes, may not prevent some of these effects.

In the case of e-cigarettes, expect more information on this product and whether there are any emerging links to your oral health in the near future. What we do know, is that e-cigarettes generally use propylene glycol as their primary vapor producer, not mere water, as some products might lead you to believe. So the effects are much different than those from simply inhaling steam.

Are E-Cigarettes Bad for Your Oral Health?

While propylene glycol is considered safe for use in food and cosmetics by the FDA in limited concentrations, the use of e-cigarettes is so new to the public that studies are still ongoing as to whether they pose significant health risks. One early suggestion is that some people may find that their mucosal membranes, for example, are irritated by using this product when used as a vapor. Animal studies suggest some problems from inhaling propylene glycol, but over periods that may be longer than typical e-cigarette use (six hours per day, for example, according to the CDC).We will examine some of the literature for you and report back later.

In the meantime, we serve all of our patients to the best of our ability. Our patients who smoke, however, must realize that they may be causing more visits and more serious procedures for themselves and their family due to the smoking habit. They may also be limiting their ability to use the latest dental procedures, such as dental implants.

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Comments (2)

It’s well known that smoking is really bad for a person’s overall health, but more visits to the dentist because of it would definitely make me stop if I was a smoker! I’m interested to see more study results about e-cigarettes in the future.

Dear Myra, we will certainly keep you informed about this ongoing hot topic in the research world.

The main thing to keep in mind is that regardless of the delivery medium, nicotine as the chemical in cigarettes is the main cause of most problems with smoking. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning that it stops the flow of the blood full of necessary nourishment needed for health of the bone and gum tissue supporting the teeth. If the support around the teeth or dental implants get weak the teeth get loose and eventually it may cause tooth loss.

Nicotine also causes reduction in salivary flow which in turn reduces the the ability to fight off the cavity-causing bacteria. Saliva helps by killing the bad bacteria and neutralizing the acidic environment where these bacteria flourish and cause harm to the tooth structure.

I hope this helped.

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