Why Smoking Is Terrible For Your Dental Health
What’s the best gift you can give your loved ones and yourself this holiday season? It’s not the latest iPhone or Nintendo. It’s not a new car or a big TV. Taking care of yourself and improving your health will help you to live a longer, happier, healthier life. That means more time to spend with family and friends-- and isn’t that a great gift for everyone?
While there are many things you can do for your health, today I’m going to talk about smoking and the use of tobacco products (like chewing tobacco). Nearly 25% of adults in Virginia use tobacco products. That’s an absolutely astounding number, considering all we know about the health effects of cigarettes and tobacco.
I can speak to you as a dentist, a healthcare professional, and simply as someone who wants to help you be as healthy as possible. If you or someone you love is a smoker or uses tobacco products, keep reading. We’ll talk about the general health risks associated with smoking and tobacco as well as how dental health is affected too. Plus, I’ll share some of my favorite resources to help people stop smoking.
Overall Health Risks of Smoking
Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. It really is that simple. Let’s look at a few of the most dangerous health problems caused by the use of tobacco products:
Cardiovascular (Heart) Disease & Strokes
Smoking causes the blood vessels in your body to thicken and narrow, greatly increasing your chance of a heart attack. This also increases your heart rate, which can cause high blood pressure, blood clots, and strokes.
Even so-called “social smokers” and those who smoke as few as 5 cigarettes per day are at much higher risk for heart disease than the average non-smoker.
Lung Diseases and Emphysema
Chronic lung diseases leave you short of breath and gasping for air. Exercise may become impossible and just walking around might be difficult due to shortness of breath.
Smokers are over 10 times as likely to die from lung disease as non-smokers.
Smoking causes cancers throughout the body-- particularly in the lungs, stomach, and kidneys. As you can see from the chart above, there really isn’t any part of the body that smoking doesn’t harm.
Oral Cancer Risks
Speaking of cancer, smokers and people who use tobacco have a much greater risk of developing oral cancers, as well as cancers of the head and neck. Because of this, many dentists perform regular oral cancer screenings to help identify any abnormal mouth lesions that could be cancerous or pre-cancerous as early as possible.
Early detection is key!
Additional Dental Health Risks
Smokers and those who use tobacco products also experience other dental problems, including:
Bone and tooth loss
Painful dry sockets after tooth removal
Don’t Despair: There’s Good News!
When they hear about the negative health effects of smoking and using chewing tobacco, many people despair and feel hopeless. But there is good news!
No matter how long you’ve been a smoker for, you can greatly improve your health by quitting as soon as possible.
After Not Smoking for Only 1 Day:
Your blood pressure and heart rate won’t be spiking due to cigarettes
Carbon monoxide levels in your bloodstream drop back to normal
After Not Smoking for 30 Days:
You’ll be short of breath less often
Your sense of smell and taste will return to the levels of a non-smoker
Circulation will improve and your lung function will start to improve
After Not Smoking for 6 Months:
You’ll regain the ability to have a healthy cough which helps fight off infection and seasonal sickness
After Not Smoking for 1 Year:
Your risk of heart disease drops by 50%
After Not Smoking for 5 Years and Beyond:
Your risk of oral, throat, esophageal, and lung cancers drops by over 50%
After 15 years, you will have the same risk of heart disease as a healthy non-smoker
Are You Ready to Stop Smoking?
If you’re thinking about quitting smoking, there are resources that can help you. In Virginia there are some great resources available, including SmokeFree.gov where you can:
Get free counseling
Develop a plan to quit smoking
Receive tips and encouragement to keep you on track
Discover discounted or free options for stop-smoking aids
One of my favorite tools is this calculator which will show you how much money you’ll save by quitting smoking. It’s amazing!
5 Keys to Quitting Smoking
It’s not easy to stop smoking. In fact, some studies show that cigarettes are more addictive than some illegal drugs. But there are things you can do to increase your chances of success.
Have a support system in place. Whether it’s asking your family and friends for help or reaching out to a counselor, the support of others is a big help.
Change your habits. Avoid falling into old habits that involve cigarettes. For example if you used to have coffee and a cigarette with breakfast, switch to tea.
Become more physically active. As you stop smoking and your body becomes used to having more available oxygen-- take advantage of it. Start an exercise program or just go out for a walk. Enjoy the fresh air and get used to being active and feeling great.
Eat healthy, nutritious foods. It’s too easy to exchange one bad habit (smoking) with another (eating junk food). Instead focus on healthy snacks that promote good health.
Take things one day at a time. If you slip up and have a cigarette, it’s not the end of the world and it doesn’t mean you’re a “smoker” again. Keep thinking of yourself as a non-smoker and start fresh the next day.
Above all, don’t give up!
Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health and it’s something you should be proud of. Just keep doing your best and keep focused on your goal: a longer, healthier, happier life-- a life without cigarettes.
Do You Have Questions About Oral Health & Smoking?
Ask your dentist. If you’re in the Harrisonburg area, make an appointment with me. I’m here to help you.