Smoking Requires Special Measures To Care For A Smile

About this time each year, well-intended New Year’s Resolutions begin to falter. A number of those who set goals for losing weight, giving up coffee, or exercising more have lost enthusiasm and fallen back into same old, same old.

This is also the case for a number of adults who make ‘stop smoking’ as their number one resolution. Fully determined on January 1, by the end of February, the determination wanes. As a matter of fact, the American Cancer Society suggests that it takes 8–10 attempts before the average adult actually kicks the habit for good.

And, the organization also acknowledges the difficulty people have in quitting. They state, “it may be harder to quit smoking than to stop using cocaine or opiates like heroin. In 2012, researchers found that about 18% were able to quit drinking and more than 40% were able to quit opiates or cocaine, but only 8% were able to quit smoking.” (

We understand. Once addicted to nicotine, training the body to release the craving is tough. And, we have no intention of lecturing you – you probably experience that enough. Our desire is to help you care for your smile so it doesn’t suffer. With the proper measures, you can have a healthy smile while taking stop-smoking actions that are paced appropriately for you.

First, let’s be clear about what smoking does to your mouth. Because cigarette and cigar smoke are inhaled into the lungs, people often assume it is the lungs that take the brunt of the toxins in smoke. However, it is your mouth that is the first contact point for cigarette smoke.

Because the mouth is mostly made up of tissues that absorb moisture, the toxins in the smoke are readily absorbed by the tissues with each inhale. As a matter of fact, an article in Medical News Today lists some of the components of this smoke, which include:

• Acetaldehyde – this chemical is used in resins and glues.
• Acetone – this chemical is used in solvents.
 • Acrolein – an ingredient in tear gas.
• 1-aminonaphthalene – in ingredient in weed killers.
 • Ammonia – it is known to cause asthma and raise blood pressure. Ammonia is used in cleaners.
 • Benzene – used in gasoline.
• Chromium –  used in wood treatment, wood preservatives, metal plating and alloys.
 • Cresol – used in disinfectants, wood preservatives and solvents.
• Formaldehyde – part of the resin used in foam insulation, plywood, fiberboard and particle board.
 • Hydrogen Cyanide – some states use this chemical in their gas chambers for executions and is used in the production of acrylic plastics and resins.
• Lead – used in paint and metal alloys.
 • Styrene – a substance is used in fiberglass, pipes, plastic and insulation materials.
 • Nicotine – an extremely fast-acting drug that reaches the brain within 15 seconds of being inhaled. It is used as a highly controlled insecticide.
 • Carbon Monoxide – a poisonous gas with no smell or taste that is absorbed into the bloodstream.
• Tar – consists of cancer-causing chemicals that, when inhaled, 70% remains in the lungs.

and these are just a few. ( So, imagine that your tender gum tissues are absorbing these chemicals, taking the initial impact before they reach the lungs.

In addition to having teeth that are stained brown from smoking, be aware that something you don’t see is putting your smile at risk. The chemicals in this smoke are very drying to oral tissues. When saliva flow is insufficient (which can also be caused by some medications or the aging process), bacteria in the mouth is not being efficiently moved out of the oral cavity.

In this environment, oral bacteria accumulates very quickly. These are living, eating and reproducing organisms that breed rapidly. Without adequate moisture in the mouth, they build up and begin attacking oral tissues for sustenance.

Not only do bacteria destroy healthy oral tissues, like any living organism that eats, it defecates. Ever wonder why your breath is bad when your mouth is dry? Keep this icky image in mind to remind yourself to be fully committed to proper brushing twice a day, daily flossing, and drinking plenty of water.

For smokers who also enjoy coffee, cola or tea, they are getting a double dose of oral dryness. Caffeine is very drying to oral tissues. Too, alcoholic beverages, including wine, have a drying effect on gum tissues.

Now that you have a better understanding of the brunt your mouth takes when you smoke, here are some tips to help you keep your mouth healthy, avoid cavities and gum disease (and subsequent tooth loss), and have fresh breath and a brighter smile.

• Brush at least twice a day for two minutes each time. Don’t scrub your teeth – use a gentle swirling action on all sides as well as the tops. Brush your tongue when your finished with the teeth to uproot ka-zillions of oral bacteria embedded here. Be sure to reach the back portion where most hide out. Swish several times after brushing.

• Floss daily. This action dislodges particles caught between teeth that can quickly begin to rot – something oral bacteria love. If flossing is too difficult, consider purchasing a water flosser. These are shown to be just as effective as manual flossing. They are very affordable and easy to use.

• See your dentist twice a year. One of the actions during these visits is the opportunity for your hygienist to remove plaque and tartar buildup. Tartar is a hardened form of oral bacteria that attaches to teeth. This is what the hygienist is scraping off during your cleanings. By the way, people who have minimal tartar find these visits are far more comfortable because their gums are healthy and less tender. Know that you’ll enjoy these visits by keeping buildup to a minimum between visits. These visits also allow the dentist to check for signs of oral cancer. You likely know that you are at a greater risk for this cancer. The Oral Cancer Foundation states, “Tobacco products, heavy use of alcohol and particularly the combined use of both, have been implicated as the main causes of oral cancer.”

• Drink plenty of water. Try to follow each cigarette, cola, cup of coffee or alcoholic beverage with a glass of filtered, unsweetened water. Carry a glassful or bottle of water with you everywhere you go and keep one at your desk. Water is good for your whole body, but your mouth – if you smoke – especially relies on it to replenish the drying effects from smoking.

If you can’t quit (or prefer not to), take special care of your smile. It’s a significant part of your appearance, enables you to chew foods, speak and helps preserve your facial structures. It will be a positive part of your day, all day and every day, with simple measures that take mere minutes each day.

Call 219-987-5733 if you’re behind on dental checkups. We’ll help you get started on a healthy smile routine!