Can’t Kick the Habit?

Tobacco Use Doesn’t Mean Giving Up on Your Oral Health!

It is common knowledge that smoking or chewing tobacco is a habit that damages teeth. The chemicals make first contact with the mouth, so when smokers do not make their oral hygiene a top priority, they are setting themselves up for problems in the future. From oral cancers to yellowing teeth, any smoker knows the damage they’re gambling with, and they know that they should quit.

However, tobacco is highly addictive.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse,  it is well documented that most smokers identify tobacco use as harmful and express a desire to reduce or stop using it, and nearly 35 million of them want to quit each year. “Unfortunately, more than 85 percent of those who try to quit on their own relapse, most within a week,” states the NIDA website.

Although smoking is a personal decision and it is no easy feat to quit, you can be sure that dentists will never stop telling their patients that they’re “highly encouraged” to cease smoking. “We hope to be the push our patients need to stop,” says Dr. Landeros. “We have so much information to help with smoking cessation, and there are free helpful programs online – we want to help anyone who feels trapped by nicotine addiction. A lot of times, the damage shows up first in their teeth.”

However, dentists’ recommendations to stop smoking rarely result in a smoker cutting the habit completely. “Sometimes we suggest that individuals should stop smoking, but they can’t or don’t want to,” says Dr. Landeros. “So they don’t like hearing that, and just stop coming to see us. That’s the worst thing they could do!”

It may be stressful to face your anxieties head on and hear what you don’t like to be reminded of, but smokers need to remember that during regular checkups, dentists look out for signs of gum disease and cancers. This is especially important for tobacco users, who should be having these checkups more often than the once-yearly recommendation for non-smokers. Professional dental cleanings can also help reduce the aesthetic damage caused by tobacco.

Whether they have no plan to change their habits or are committed to quitting, smokers should maintain a close relationship with their dentist and never give up on their oral health. “Quitting tobacco completely is ideal but there are other measures smokers can take to maintain the best oral health possible,” says Dr. Landeros. Maintaining a hygiene routine is vital. Like any individual, smokers must brush, floss, and use mouthwash at least twice daily, but the tongue cleaner becomes an extra important step in preventing bad breath. Choosing the right dental care products is another factor. Toothbrushes should have stiff bristles; they are better for working out tar stains, and there are special toothpastes and mouthwashes for smokers.

A smoker who has successfully broken their dependence on nicotine should be extremely proud of themselves, and we recommend that they treat themselves to a professional teeth cleaning to celebrate a milestone, like one month tobacco-free. “When you walk out of the office with your teeth gleaming and breath fresh, you won’t want to go back to how you were before,” says Dr. Landeros. “Take care of your clean mouth and use it as motivation to stay away from the bad habits that caused you to be unhappy with your smile!”