You know smoking is bad for your health, but did you know it can be equally damaging to your smile? Besides stains and an increased risk of oral cancer, a common side effect of smoking is dry mouth. Without adequate moisture in your mouth, it creates the perfect environment for bad bacteria. Although it’s always best to kick the habit, if you’re not ready to stop smoking quite yet, here’s the information you need to safeguard your smile.
Smoking and Dry Mouth
Smoking can cause your mouth to feel dry, often referred to as cottonmouth. The American Dental Association categorizes it as an issue when the salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva to keep the mouth hydrated. Nicotine products are known to minimize saliva flow, which can cause your mouth to become dehydrated. Besides cottonmouth, smoking also restricts blood flow to your mouth and gums. When you combine the dry environment with a lack of blood flow, it significantly increases your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Smoking and Gum Disease
Next to tooth decay, gum disease is the biggest threat to your oral health. Although it’s preventable, at least 50% of Americans have a form of the infection, making it the leading cause of tooth loss. While anyone can develop it, smokers have double the risk of gum disease when compared to nonsmokers. They are also 4 times as likely to reach advanced stages of periodontal disease because smoking hinders your body’s ability to heal and fight infections. Not only can the infection wreak havoc on your smile, but research shows gum disease increases the risk of several health issues, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetic complications.
Combating Dry Mouth
Reducing harmful bacteria in your mouth is crucial to keeping your teeth and gums healthy. You can help avoid common smoking hazards by brushing your teeth at least twice daily and floss nightly. It’s also important to keep your mouth moist by drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated. Sucking on sugarless candies or chewing sugarless gum can encourage saliva production to prevent cottonmouth.
Besides keeping your smile healthy, it’s better to stop smoking as soon as possible. You can help reduce temptations to light up again by:
- Thinking positively about quitting.
- Make a plan to stop smoking.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Establish a healthy habit when you are craving a cigarette.
- Get support to stop smoking.
- Exercise regularly.
- Keep your hands and mouth busy.
Invest in a Healthy Smile
You can help keep your smile healthy while you ditch cigarettes by making a few simple changes at home. If you need help resolving dry mouth, contact your dentist for additional advice.