Oral problems affecting people who smoke

The most common oral problems affecting people who smoke are:

  • Periodontal (gum)disease – a leading cause of tooth loss
  • Increased risk of developing oral cancer
  • Delayed healing after tooth extractions or oral surgery
  • Lower success rate of dental implant procedures
  • Increased risk of developing leukoplakia (white patches inside the mouth)
  • Tooth discoloration / staining

Smoking & Periodontal Disease

Periodontal (gum) disease is a condition which destroys the bone surrounding and supporting your teeth.

Smokers typically do not experience any symptoms such as bleeding gums as they have poor blood supply to the gums, so their gum disease is often masked.

People who smoke less than 10 cigarettes per day are twice as likely to develop gum disease. This increases significantly in heavier smokers.

Smokers tend not to respond as well to gum treatment as non-smokers.

Oral Pre-cancer

Oral leukoplakia, which can be regarded as “pre-cancer” is far more common in smokers than in non-smokers. Leukoplakia is essentially any white lesion whose cause is not known. There is a chance that these lesions can progress and become cancerous.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is cancer of the oral cavity – this includes the tongue, cheek, palate, floor of the mouth and lips. Treatment for oral cancer includes surgery, radiotherapy and tooth extractions.

Numerous studies in various populations have shown that smokers have a substantially higher risk of oral cancer than nonsmokers. Of people with oral cancer, 75 per cent are smokers.

The good news is there is a considerable risk reduction of developing cancer when people stop smoking.

Delayed healing

People who smoke are more likely to develop a ‘dry socket’. This is a poorly healing tooth socket after a tooth extraction, which is very painful.

People who smoke are also more likely to have pain after other oral and gum surgery. Dental implants are less likely to integrate or ‘take’ in people who smoke than in non-smokers.

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