Monday, April 2, 2012

Smoking and your Heatlh

These days even the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel know that smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease. But another, less well-known location of smoking-related health problems is your mouth.

Smokers and tobacco-users experience a variety of oral health problems at higher rates than normal, including:

Oral cancers
Gum disease
Tooth loss
Loss of bone in the jaw
Gum recession
Delayed/impaired healing process after oral surgery and other treatments
Decreased success rate of dental implant (tooth replacement) procedures
Mouth sores
Loss of the senses of taste and smell
Bad breath
Tooth and tongue stains

Smokers lose their teeth more often than non-smokers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data indicates that among people over age 65, about 20 percent of those who have never smoked have lost all their teeth, while more than 40 percent of daily smokers have lost all their teeth. And the American Dental Association estimates that smoking may be responsible for almost 75% of gum disease among adults.

Although many of the statistics surrounding health problems apply to cigarette smokers, recent data shows the fallout is similar for pipe and cigar smokers, as well as for those who use smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco and snuff. In addition to cancer-causing chemicals and addictive nicotine, smokeless tobacco also includes sugar, which increases the risk for tooth decay, and grit, which can wear down the enamel coating on your teeth. Further cancer risks come into play with smokeless tobacco, with users experiencing more cancers of the cheeks, gums, and inner lips than non-smokers.

Because nicotine is an addictive chemical, quitting cigarettes is tough. Cigars and pipes are just as addictive, while chewing tobacco and snuff can be even tougher to quit, due to higher levels of nicotine. The good news is that quitting is possible, and according to the American Cancer Society, 10 years after quitting, the lung cancer rate is half that of a continuing smoker's, and after 15 years, the risk of heart disease is the same as that of a non-smoker's.

If you're interested in protecting your oral health (as well as that of your heart and lungs), we strongly recommend quitting. Based on the experience of those who have successfully quit smoking, the Surgeon General recommends the following steps to help you quit permanently:

Get ready: set a quitting date and remove all smoking materials from your home, office and car.
Get support: let friends, family and colleagues know that you are quitting, join a support group, and let your health care providers know (that's us!).
Learn new skills and behaviors: drink lots of water, distract yourself from smoking urges with other activities, and take actions to reduce your stress level.
Get medication and use it correctly: use an over-the-counter medication or talk to us about your prescription options.
Be prepared for relapse or difficult situations: eat healthy and stay active to avoid weight gain, avoid other smokers, and avoid alcohol because drinking makes it tougher to succeed.

If you are making a decision about quitting and we can help in any way, please let us know. We are dedicated to protecting your oral health, and quitting smoking is a significant step in the right direction.

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