It's easy to overlook oral health, especially where there's no glaring problem. But poor oral hygiene can lead to a myriad of other serious problems, including heart attacks and even strokes. Two of the worst offenders to your teeth, gums and overall oral health? Smoking and alcohol.
Smoking and Oral Health
Smoking has long been known to be detrimental to your health. Of the 250 known harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke, at least 69 of them can cause cancer. And if cancer doesn't get you, the damage to your lungs will. But smoking is also known to cause problems with the teeth and gums, and not just discoloration. Smoking can also lead to tooth decay and bad breath. Smoking causes a layer of tarter that can be difficult to remove. You may have noticed that smokers develop a brown tinge that is especially noticeable on the lower teeth. This accumulation can be very stubborn to remove and requires professional cleaning on a regular basis. Without regular removal, this tarter buildup can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and, eventually, to tooth loss.
Alcohol Use and Tooth Decay
Alcohol can also lead to tooth decay, gum disease and oral cancer. Alcohol stops the body's ability to properly fight against germs and disease. Alcohol, especially heavy use, exposes your mouth to increased levels of sugars and acids found in the drink. While occasional alcohol use won’t necessarily cause problems, you should still take precautions. After drinking alcohol, it’s important to rinse your mouth with water and brush your teeth to remove any of the alcohol from between teeth and gums.
Treating Poor Oral Health
If you already have tarter and other oral issues, it’s best to address them as soon as possible. Regular professional teeth cleaning is essential if you’re a smoker. This will help to remove stubborn tarter from between teeth and near the gums that regular brushing won’t get rid of. Bad breath is usually a symptom of gum disease or tooth decay, so you’ll want to have regular dental checkups. Without regular dental care, your teeth will begin to break down – heavy smokers can start to lose teeth at the rate of about one every two to three years after the age of 35. Those who smoke may begin to lose their sense of smell or taste and may not recognize the signs of poor oral health.
Preventing Oral Problems
If you are a smoker, the best thing to do to improve your oral health is to stop smoking. Of course, that's usually easier said than done. Until then, keep your mouth as clean as possible. Floss regularly and brush the teeth and gums to ensure your mouth is as clean and bacterial-free as possible. Rinse your mouth and brush your teeth after eating and smoking to immediately remove any residue. After drinking alcohol, always rinse with fresh water and brush your teeth, especially before going to bed. Visit the dentist regularly and seek the advice of your dentist for any oral issues you may encounter.
About the Author Dr. Steffany Mohan is the Owner of Plaza Dental Group and is a leading dentist in Des Moines, Iowa. Dr. Mohan is an expert in implant, Family, gum disease and cosmetic dentistry, is Invisalign certified and has gained a reputation of excellence in the dentistry community. Google+