Don’t Smoke? Living Or Working With A Smoker Creates Higher Risks Than Once Thought.
Posted on May 14, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
I doubt there is anyone in the U.S. who smokes tobacco who is unaware of the fact that it’s an unhealthy habit. Although the heart and lungs are more widely associated with the health risks of smoking, many people miss the fact that it is also damaging to the tissues in the mouth.
Consider the devastating statistics of COVID-19 related deaths in the U.S., nearing the 600,000 mark. Yet, when it comes to your oral health, cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States. For people who don’t smoke but live or work with a smoker, secondhand smoke exposure accounts for over 41,000 of these.
For nonsmokers who are victims of secondhand smoke, that’s a tough statistic to accept.
Just how harmful is secondhand smoke? British researchers recently released some interesting findings along these lines. Their studies included several major countries and tracked nearly 7,000 adults, with nearly half being exposed to secondhand smoke. The findings showed that breathing in the smoke of another person’s cigarette can increase the risk of oral cancer by more than 50 percent. These cancers include lip, mouth and throat cancers.
On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers. For every person who dies because of smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious illness related to smoking. Smoking leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body.
When considering the mouth, smoking can create costly problems in addition to a higher risk of tooth loss.
Twenty years of research shows that cigarette smoking is a risk factor for periodontitis. A smoker is 2 – 3 times as likely to develop periodontitis, which is an advanced stage of gum disease. In addition to increased prevalence, smokers also experience greater severity of gum disease.
Nicotine (in any form) has been shown to reduce blood flow in the gum tissues in the mouth. Pipe smoking can be worse than cigarettes due to the higher temperatures generated in the upper jaw. When it comes to dental implants, smoking is a risk factor for failure. It is also detrimental for conventional bridgework.
Cigarette smoking has long been associated with serious oral conditions, including periodontal (gum) disease, bone loss, tissue loss, and tooth loss. For smokers who opt for dental implants to replace missing teeth, they have a higher risk of peri-implantitis, which is inflammation of the soft and hard gum tissues surrounding a dental implant. To no surprise, smokers have a higher incidence of dental implant failure.
In an article published by the Journal of International’s Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry as far back as 2012, it warned that smoking can impact the rate of dental implant success, accounting for up to 20 percent of failures.
“Clinical trials of endosseous implants consistently rate smoking as a primary patient-centered risk factor for implant loss.”
It is common knowledge that the nicotine in cigarettes, e-cigs and ‘chew’ is an addictive drug. Some concerning quotes shared by the Oral Cancer Foundation are:
“Scientists have found that nicotine is as addictive as heroin, cocaine or amphetamines, and for most people, more addictive than alcohol,” states the article “Nicotine, Harder to Kick than Heroin,” published in the New York Times Magazine.
“Nicotine is similar in all critical measures to prototypic drugs of abuse such as cocaine, morphine and heroin.”
“Nicotine is a poison used as an insecticide.”
Now, knowing the effects of secondhand smoke are likened to the non-smoking “victim” as inhaling half as many cigarettes as the user they live or work with, smokers should consider their habit in a different light.
While our Asheville periodontal dental office does not lecture or “guilt” our patients in any way, we feel they deserve to know the hazards of any risk factor related to the well being of their oral health. Without a doubt, smoking (whether cigarettes or vaping) is harmful to oral tissues and the potential to keep natural teeth.
In a report shared by Delta Dental, smokers are about twice as likely to lose their teeth than non-smokers, according to two 30-year studies at Tufts University in Boston. Their findings showed that men who smoke lose about 3 teeth for every 10 years of smoking, with women losing an average of 1.5 teeth per decade.
Every year, about half of smokers make some attempt at kicking the habit. Yet, only 6 or so percent are fully successful. All the while, the tobacco industry spends BILLIONS of dollars each year on cigarette and smokeless tobacco advertising and promotions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), in 2018 “$9.06 billion was spent on advertising and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco combined—about $25 million every day.” That’s more than $1 million dollars spent every hour of every day.
While nicotine addiction means big money to the tobacco industry, it is enormously costly to our population. Now, knowing that secondhand smoke is so harmful to others, I hope our smoker patients will welcome our respectful support in their efforts to quit as we help them to maintain good oral health and keep their teeth (or dental implants) healthy for a lifetime of confident smiles.
If you’ve considered dental implants to replace missing teeth and smoke, please consult with us to discuss ways we can help you minimize the potential for dental implant failure. We want you to reap the benefits of a smile you’ll want to share proudly.
Call 828-274-9440 to schedule.
Your Tongue Is A Multi-Tasker!
Posted on May 05, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
With the tongue occupying such a large area inside the mouth (or ‘oral cavity’), you’d think its anatomy would be common knowledge. Because this muscle functions continually without tiring, it tends to be taken for granted. It’s importance to your overall health, however, is unbounded.
To correct a common misconception about the tongue, it is not the strongest muscle in the body. Although it ranks in the top 5 or so, the muscles surrounding the eyes actually have that supremacy. The heart, deemed the hardest working muscle in the body, and the masseter (jaw muscle) are also among those that are the body’s stand-outs.
The tongue does many things. It provides our sense of taste, is vital in pronunciation, moves food around as we chew, and aids in swallowing while helping to prevent certain things from being swallowed.
Not one muscle but a combination of 8, the tongue is coated with papillae. These are the tiny, bumpy protrusions on its surface. They help in various ways but are mostly credited for our sense of taste.
Different areas of the tongue are more sensitive to certain tastes. For example, the tip of the tongue detects sweet to the greatest extent while the sides detect sour.
Papillae also sense touch so that we can feel the form and texture of food.
Saliva helps to keep the tongue moist so it can move around the oral cavity freely. Saliva is also helpful to the tongue by moving bacteria from its surface. However, saliva cannot keep the tongue bacteria-free.
Saliva and food residue can get stuck in the grooves between the papillae, especially on the last third of the tongue. This can create areas for bacterial growth. These bacteria thrive on remains of protein-rich food like fish, cheese or milk.
Here is where, as an Asheville periodontist, I have a particular interest in the tongue. As bacteria accumulate, a whitish film covers the tongue, which also causes bad breath. Keeping bacteria in the mouth to manageable levels is greatly supported by saliva flow.
The tongue’s underside covers two salivary glands of the lower jaw (submandibular glands). These ducts are located where the tongue meets the floor of the mouth.
If you’ve read some of my previous articles, you’ll recall that I’m constantly reminding readers of the hazards of having a dry mouth. Smoking, consumption of alcohol and caffeine, and many medications are all obstacles to the salivary glands being able to function efficiently.
A dry mouth provides a breeding ground for bacteria reproduction. When you consider the amount of bacteria embedded in the tongue’s surface, oral bacteria levels in the mouth can run rampant.
Because the tongue’s surface color can indicate too much oral bacteria, it should be looked at during at-home oral hygiene regimens. It is advised that, after brushing teeth, using the toothbrush to brush the tongue. This can dislodge an enormous amount of bacteria.
Although brushing the tongue tends to be done on the front area, it’s helpful to brush towards the back of the tongue where most bacteria exist (hence, the whiter color and smoother surface). Gagging will stop you from going too far so use that as a guide.
Some toothbrushes have a tongue scraper surface on the back side of the bristles. There are also tongue scrapers available for purchase. These are flexible strips that should be used to scrape from back to front 3 or more times after brushing. Rinsing the scraper is advised after each pass.
To provide even more support in helping the oral cavity control bacteria, an oral rinse can be very helpful. After brushing (for a minimum of 2 minutes) and flossing, swish for 30 or more seconds with an alcohol-free mouthwash. While the intensity of the mouthwash may be greater with initial use, most people notice its easier to swish around the mouth within a week or so.
Low bacteria levels in the mouth make for fresh breath and reduced risk of developing cavities and gum disease. Periodontal disease begins with gingivitis, which causes gum tissues to be tender and bleed when brushing.
Periodontitis, an advanced stage of gum disease, causes red, sore, spongy gums. Other symptoms are persistent bad breath, bleeding easily, gums that loosen from the base of teeth, and teeth that loosen.
Periodontitis can also cause health risks far beyond the mouth. Because these infectious bacteria can enter the bloodstream through tears in the gum tissues, it has been shown to trigger or worsen the development of serious health problems. Some of these are stroke, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, some cancers, and diabetes.
When it comes to the tongue, remember its important role to your oral and overall health. Keep the mouth moist and its surface clean and your reward will be sweet (without the calories!).
If you are experiencing any signs of gum disease, call 828-274-9440 for an appointment. Gum disease does not go away on its own and will progressive worsen without treatment. Remember – it is the number one cause of adult tooth loss in the U.S.