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Smoking, Gum Disease & Cancer

“Tobacco use is a risk factor for oral cancers, periodontal disease and dental caries among other diseases.” – U.S. Surgeon General’s Report


1. Does smoking make me less attractive?

  • Smokers have unattractive mouths. Non-smokers are acutely aware of being close to a smoker.
  • Smoking causes unattractive brown stains on teeth.
  • These stains are not easy to remove without professional help.
  • Smoking causes bad breath.
  • A combination of bad breath and stained teeth cannot be considered attractive!


2. Is there a direct connection between tooth loss and smoking?

  • According to research done in the U.S.A., smokers are twice as likely to lose their teeth as non-smokers.
  • Smoking leads to gum disease, which shrinks the alveolar bone. This results in tooth loss.


3. How can smoking lead to the loss of teeth?

  • Smoking has a detrimental effect on oral hygiene.
    • Smoking helps to build up plaque on teeth, which causes gum disease.
    • The receding gums will be red and swollen.
    • Use of tobacco is thought to restrict the flow of blood to the gums.
    • This can have a direct effect on the gums, causing gum disease.
    • This is achieved by preventing nutrients from reaching the tissues around the teeth.
    • The supporting bone will also recede and the tooth will become loose. Loose teeth either fall out or have to be extracted.


4. Why should I give up smoking?

  • Giving up smoking reduces the risk of cancer, tooth loss and other oral conditions:
    • Most importantly, giving up smoking reduces the possibility of heart disease.
    • Your breath will be fresher.
    • Your mouth will taste better.
    • Nicotine stains that have been professionally removed will not recur.
    • Smokers may also develop a condition called nicotinic stomatitis.
      It is an inflammation of the mouth that is not cancerous. It is illustrated below.


5. Is there a direct connection between smoking and oral cancer?

  • The connection has been proved beyond any doubt:
    • Smoking can cause cancer in the mouth, the respiratory system or anywhere else in the body.
    • Smoking is the main cause of cancer in the mouth and throat.
    • Excessive alcohol use together with smoking increases the risk of cancer.
    • Research in the U.S.A. indicates that 75% of oral cancer is caused by a combination of smoking and alcohol.
    • Smokers with oral cancer are more likely to die of the disease than non-smokers with oral cancer.
    • Betel-nut chewing, together with tobacco use, is considered to be cancer forming.


6. How does smoking cause oral cancer?

  • “There is evidence that smoking suppresses the immune system, and this may be one of the ways in which smoking acts as a major risk factor in oral cancer.” U.S. Surgeon General Report
    • Tobacco contains carcinogenic substances.
    • The most damaging substance is in the tobacco tar.
    • Leucoplakia is caused by smoking. It is seen as raised white patches or mouth sores, and is a pre-cancerous condition.
    • Cancer may develop from these smoking-induced mouth sores.
    • These problems are compounded by a combination of smoking and alcohol.
    • Alcohol helps these carcinogenic substances to penetrate the oral tissues.


7. Does cigar or pipe smoking also cause oral cancer?

  • Smoking tobacco in any form can cause cancer. This includes cigars, pipes and cigarettes.
  • Because the hot pipe stem rests on the lower lip, this is often where pipe smokers get cancer.
  • Mouth cancers occur on the lips, the tongue and the floor of the mouth


8. Does the use of alcohol aggravate the effects of smoking?

  • A combination of alcohol and tobacco smoke are thought to increase the risk of oral cancers.
  • Alcohol helps the carcinogenic substances in tobacco smoke to penetrate the tissues.


9. Is chewing tobacco or taking snuff a safe form of tobacco use?

  • Tobacco-use is carcinogenic.
  • Chewing tobacco (spit tobacco), snuff and all tobacco products are thought to cause cancer.

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