While mouth cancer is the most well known oral health issue caused by smoking, it is just one of the many ways smoking can harm your mouth.
Regular check ups are the best way to ensure any oral health issues are caught early when they are most treatable.
Some of these conditions can be offset with excellent oral hygiene. See your dentist for advice on how to improve yours.
It is no secret that smoking is bad for your health. There are a wide range of diseases and illnesses that it can cause. Several of which are in your mouth. Most of these conditions are not serious initially, but can lead to a much more serious diagnosis in certain circumstances. It is important to monitor your mouth for the conditions that we list below.
(Note: This is not a comprehensive list, if you are ever in doubt - book an appointment with your dentist.)
Cancer - Cancer is the most well known and obvious health risk associated with smoking. Smoking has been proven to significantly increase the risk of cancer in both the throat and the mouth. The majority of mouth cancer diagnoses are related to smoking. Smokers are three times more likely to be diagnosed with mouth cancer and seven times more likely to be diagnosed with throat cancer than non smokers.
Leukoplakia - Leukoplakia creates thick white patches that can form on all the soft tissue inside your mouth, including the tongue, gums, and cheeks. Leukoplakia is often not dangerous and most of the time it is non cancerous (benign) but can be unsightly. This being said, many cancers on the floor of the mouth form next to a white luekoplakia patch, so it is best to get any white patches in your mouth checked by a dentist if you notice them.
Smokers Melanosis - These a dark brown patches that (just like leukoplakia) can affect all of the soft tissues inside your mouth. Also like leukoplaka it is benign (non cancerous or pre cancerous). Smokers Melanosis is reasonably common in smokers with up to 20% of smokers having the condition. It can often look very similar to cancerous oral malignant melanoma. It is very important that you schedule an appointment with your dentist if you notice any dark patches in your mouth, they may wish to take a painless biopsy to confirm the patches are not cancer.
Black Hairy Tongue - Black hairy tongue looks exactly like how you would imagine it. Black hair like structures will be visible on a patch of the tongue (it is not actually hair). It is usually painless but can cause itching in the roof of the mouth and halitosis (bad breath). Poor oral hygiene is often the main cause, but smoking is known to increase the risk of contraction.
Periodontitis - Periodontitis is a serious gum infection that attacks both gum tissue and the bone that supports your teeth. It can highly increase your risk of tooth loss and in extreme cases increase it can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.
Bad Breath - It is not just the smell of the smoke that causes bad breath in smokers. Cigarette smoke also contributes to halitosis causing bad smelling breath long after smoking a cigarette.
Stained Teeth - Smoking is well known for its ability to discolor and stain teeth. Yellowish brownish stains are often unsightly and get worse the longer you smoke. (Teeth whitening from your dentist can remove some of these stains).
Regular dentists appointments are the best way to ensure you identify these conditions before they become serious. If you notice any symptoms it is always best to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Early diagnosis is a key part of successfully treating most conditions.
Some of the less serious oral health risks we listed above can be minimized by ensuring a proper dental hygiene routine - again see your dentist if you think yours is lacking.
Without doubt the best thing you can do to improve your oral health is to quit smoking. There are several useful free resources at the bottom of this page that can help you get started on your journey to be smoke free.
There has never been a better time to quit than now.
If you have any other questions about this awareness campaign, please get in contact with us using the email address here